The Justice Department announced today that the owner and former manager of the Lowrey Hotel and Café in New Richmond, Wis., has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging they had sexually harassed a homeless woman who sought shelter at the hotel.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 23, 2011, involved the Lowrey Hotel & Café, a residential hotel that often provides housing to homeless people, who have been referred by local social services agencies. According to the complaint, Gerald Hoglund, of McClusky, N.D., formerly one of the hotel’s managers, sexually harassed a female tenant, who had been referred to the hotel by a social service agency, by making unwelcome requests to her for sexual favors. The complaint also alleged that Stacy Wright, co-manager and owner of the Lowrey Hotel & Café LLC, warned the tenant that Hoglund might ask for sexual favors but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it.
“It is unacceptable that a woman looking for shelter should be subject to sexual harassment at the very place where she has sought refuge,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department has zero tolerance for this conduct and will take aggressive action against housing providers who sexually harass tenants.”
“A person’s home should be a place of complete safety and security – no one should be subjected to unwanted sexual advances from any landlord,” said John W. Vaudreuil, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. “This settlement reflects the United States’ commitment to ensuring that citizens in the Western District of Wisconsin have access to housing that is free from discrimination and sexual harassment.”
“Harassment victims are not alone in the fight to protect their housing rights,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “ HUD and DOJ work vigorously to enforce their right to live free from discrimination.”
The federal lawsuit arose when the tenant filed a complaint with the Chicago Regional Office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which conducted an investigation and, after issuing a charge of discrimination, referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the settlement, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court, the defendants will pay the complainant $50,000 in damages. Defendants Stacy Wright and the Lowrey Hotel & Café LLC will also develop and maintain non-discrimination housing policies and attend fair housing training. As part of the consent decree, Gerald Hoglund is permanently enjoined from entering the premises at the Lowrey Hotel & Café and is permanently enjoined from having any involvement in the management, rental or maintenance of any rental property.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.