The U.S. Justice Department filed a sexual harassment lawsuit Wednesday against three Minneapolis property owners and their manager.
Reese Pfeiffer, the property manager, is accused of engaging in a pattern of sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Owners Jeanne Pfeiffer, Michael Fruen and Jeremy Martineau are liable for the discriminatory conduct because Reese Pfeiffer acted as their agent when he sexually harassed tenants at properties in which they had an ownership interest, the complaint said.
Reese Pfeiffer commented on female tenants’ looks and body parts, engaged in unwelcome touching and “entered their homes under the pretense of collecting rent to solicit sexual favors, according to the complaint.
“This lawsuit alleges sexual harassment and discriminatory conduct against vulnerable tenants. Such behavior is unacceptable,” said U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate this type of discrimination and stands ready to deploy all available enforcement tools to see that justice is served.”
Pfeiffer manages numerous single-family and multifamily rental properties in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. He works for Fruen & Pfeiffer and M. Fruen Properties, businesses named as defendants in the suit.
The case will be handled by the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the assistance of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat harassment in housing. The U.S. Attorney General recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Justice Department to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing.
Since launching the initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 18 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.