Wisconsin landlord who allegedly harassed female tenants agrees to pay $500,000+ to resolve lawsuit

JANESVILLE, Wis. (WFRV) – A landlord in southern Wisconsin who allegedly sexually harassed his female tenants over 20 years has agreed to pay more than $500,000 to resolve a Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit.

According to a release from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Richard and Mary Donahue have agreed to pay $500,000 in monetary damages and a $123,965 civil penalty to the government to resolve a FHA lawsuit concerning Richard’s sexual harassment of female tenants over more than 20 years.

Richard and Mary Donahue own more than 100 residential rental units in and around the Janesville area.

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The $500,000 in monetary damages are being paid to 13 female tenants harmed by Richard, authorities say. The $123,965 civil penalty is the maximum civil penalty allowed under the FHA.

The lawsuit alleges that, since at least 2000, Richard reportedly harassed female tenants by “making repeated and unwelcome sexual comments, touching tenants’ bodies without their consent, demanding sexual activity in exchange for rent and housing-related benefits, and taking adverse actions against tenants who resisted his sexual advances or complained about the harassment.”

The suit was filed in May 2022.

“A home should be one’s sanctuary, not a place where you are subjected to dehumanizing and prolonged periods of sexual harassment,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When landlords sexually harass their tenants, they deprive them of the ability to feel safe and secure in their own homes. This agreement sends a strong message that the Justice Department will continue to enforce federal civil rights laws to ensure all tenants are protected from unlawful discrimination.”

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The Donahue’s are also permanently prohibited from managing residential rental properties and must retain an independent property manager to manage their rental properties.

“The lengthy course of sexual harassment and retaliation against female tenants in this case is disturbing and unacceptable,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea for the Western District of Wisconsin. “Our office remains committed to holding landlords accountable for violations of the Fair Housing Act.”

No additional information was provided.