These two lawsuits, a collaboration between Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and the U.S. Department of Justice, permanently removed a dangerous landlord from property management.
In 2019, a team of MMLA lawyers went after Reese Pfeiffer under the Fair Housing Act after he subjected three single African American female tenants to severe sexual harassment. In 2020, DOJ conducted its own investigation into whether Pfeiffer had engaged in a pattern or practice of housing discrimination. The United States filed its lawsuit against Pfeiffer in September 2020. Through both actions, MMLA and DOJ identified 23 victims of Pfeiffer’s sexual harassment.
“These women were all vulnerable, and he had the power to control whether or not they would have a place to live,” MMLA attorney Rebecca Stillman says. “They had no safe place to escape.”
As alleged in the lawsuits, Pfeiffer’s harassment included repeated propositions, unwanted touching, and inappropriate comments and questions, such as asking women to dance for him or provide massages. Pfeiffer claimed the female tenants owed fictitious charges such as higher rent, deposits and/or late fees. He then told the women they could “work it out” by providing sexual favors.
The two cases settled in 2021 through a court-ordered consent decree, which instituted a permanent injunction barring Reese Pfeiffer from managing rental properties in the future, required the appointment of an independent manager for Pfeiffer’s properties, and ordered payment of $736,000 to the 23 victims and a $14,000 civil penalty to the United States. Pfeiffer and his co-defendants separately agreed to pay $140,000 in attorney fees to MMLA.
Further, “Reese Pfeiffer is permanently prohibited from managing properties,” Stillman said.
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2021 here.
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