Case File: Sexual Harassment and Reprisal in Housing
After finding probable cause, the Department is pursuing a sexual harassment and reprisal discrimination action against a landlord.
The sexual comments from Carla's landlord were frequent, graphic, and included his desire to sleep with her, according to Carla. The landlord boasted of his sexual prowess, and suggested that if Carla (not her real name) would agree to have sex with him, she would not have to pay rent.
Then there were the phone calls. Sometimes, her landlord would call three to five times a day, as well as late at night. Carla became more afraid — for herself, and for her daughter — of what her landlord might do. Sometimes he would linger outside her door, with no apparent reason to be there. She also believed he had entered her home without her knowledge.
Finally, she moved out. A few months later, she filed a charge with the Department of Human Rights, alleging sexual harassment.
The Department found evidence to substantiate Carla's allegations that she had been subjected to unwanted sexual conduct and sexual advances, as she had alleged. The Department also found evidence that the landlord had subjected other female tenants to similar unwanted sexual conduct.
But the Department's finding of probable cause would not be the end of Carla's issues with her former landlord.
In addition to filing her charge, Carla had filed suit against the landlord over some money issues related to her tenancy. She won her case in court, and obtained a financial judgment. That same day, her landlord filed a police report, accusing her of stealing a $500 money order from his mailbox — a claim the court had already addressed earlier that morning, in its ruling against him.
The landlord also filed a second police report, with the same accusation, one day after the Department found probable cause that he had engaged in unlawful sexual harassment.
Carla filed a second charge with the Department of Human Rights, alleging illegal retaliation.
The landlord had "knowingly made false claims that the charging party stole a money order from the respondent's office" the Department determined. His actions constituted unlawful reprisal against the charging party, in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Department found.
After the Department issued its finding, the tenant chose to withdraw her case to pursue a remedy through the court system.