The Department of Justice (DOJ) building Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A lawsuit has been filed in the US against managers of a rental property for allegedly harassing, threatening and punching a gay, disabled tenant.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against Leaf Property Investments in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the alleged harassment of a tenant due to his sex, sexual orientation and disability, in violation of the the Fair Housing Act.
Under the 1988 federal law it’s illegal to discriminate the sale or rental of property based on race, colour, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, disability, and religion.
The suit details that from 2019 to 2020 the manager of a rental property, Dennis Parker, repeatedly harassed a gay man, who is referred to as “John Doe” in the legal document.
During this period the tenant claims Parker punched him in the groin and threatened to evict him after he reported the harassment to police.
Doe was allegedly subjected to “unwelcome and unwanted sexual comments that were egregious, offensive, and violent”, which made Doe feel “fearful and threatened”, the DOJ said.
According to the suit Doe suffers with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety – all of which “substantially limit one or more of his major life activities”, including his ability to take care of himself.
‘A bowling pin with your name on it’
Doe moved into the rented accommodation in April 2019, after contacting Parker who managed the apartment complex, during their conversation Doe allegedly informed Parker about his sexuality and disability.
Park told Doe that his sexual orientation and disability wouldn’t be a problem and he approved him to rent the unit on a month-to-month basis.
Parker allegedly told Doe: “I would love to f**k you until you scream”, and “you should give me a blowjob”, or words to this effect, note the DOJ.
Throughout December Parker allegedly publicly verbally harassed Doe by yelling derogatory and offensive statements at him from an outside balcony, one of these comments included “God hates… f****ts”.
The suit says Parker sent unwelcome sexually violent statements through text message to Doe, including saying “grab your ankles daddy is coming to get some”, “what do you think about anal fisting”, and “I have a bowling pin with your name on it”.
In response to the text, Doe opened up to Parker and told him he had previously been sexually assaulted and that his statement had triggered his PTSD, but Parker continued.
The defendant also sent texts to Doe which included harassment based on his disability-related work limitation and use of Social Security Disability Insurance.
According to the suit, Doe told the Milwaukee Police Department about Parker’s harassment on 22 December in 2019.
On this same day police visited Parker’s home to speak to him about the harassment, but he allegedly refused to open his door and yelled “go f**k yourself” to the officer. He was issued with a $195.000 disorderly conduct citation.
Over the following month, Parker allegedly sent more than 28 text messages to Doe in relation to his “little stunt calling the police”, and he said the property owner had given him permission to evict Doe and to either destroy, discard or give his belongings to someone else.
‘This harassment needs to end’
On 23 June 2020, Doe contacted Leaf Property Investments to say Parker had been “harassing him for a long time” and had “punched [him] hard in the balls Sunday evening”.
He added: “[If Parker] touches me again in anyway or continues to harass me, I will call the cops, press charges and file a restraining order,” Doe allegedly wrote. “This harassment needs to end NOW!”
Doe eventually moved out on 1 July 2020, and filed a discrimination complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on 23 September.
The suit states the HUD investigation found Doe had been discriminated against, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and it issued a charge of discrimination.
Doe decided to have the matter decided in federal court and the case has been referred to the Justice Department.
U.S Attorney Richard G Frohling for the Eastern District of Wisconsin said: “No tenant should have to choose between having a stable residence or enduring sexual harassment from their landlord or property manager.”