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Janesville property owners sued for sexual harassment and retaliation

By: Ali Teske//May 16, 2022//

Janesville property owners sued for sexual harassment and retaliation

By: Ali Teske//May 16, 2022//

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A lawsuit has been filed against a Janesville couple alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against former tenants since at least 2000.

The Department of Justice announced Friday that it has filed a lawsuit against Richard and Mary Donahue, owners of rental properties in the Janesville area. According to the complaint, Richard Donahue, who managed the properties, made repeated and unwelcome sexual comments to female tenants, entered the homes of female tenants without their consent, touched female tenants’ bodies without their consent, requested sexual contact, offered reduced or free rent in exchange for sexual contact and took adverse housing-related actions against female tenants who refused his sexual advances. The lawsuit also names as a defendant Mary Donahue, Richard Donahue’s wife, who co-owns some of the properties.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe at home, but sexual harassment in housing destroys that security,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act against landlords who engage in this kind of predatory and illegal behavior.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate persons harmed by the alleged harassment, civil penalties to vindicate the public interest and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in federal court.

The Justice Department launched its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in October 2017.  The department’s initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The goal of the initiative is to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative, the department of Justice has filed 24 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $9.5 million for victims of such harassment.

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