Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Council Bluffs, IA, Couple Awarded $147,000 for Anti-Gay Harassment by Rental Management Company // Update: It Wasn't Just Name-Calling.

(Originally written on 06/11/13): Charles Anderson and Brandon Morehouse of Council Bluffs, IA, rented an apartment together back in 2011. Apparently, building's on-site maintenance man Allen Emert learned that the couple was sharing a one-bedroom apartment in March 2011. Emert then began harassing and name-calling the couple on a daily basis. The pair complained to New Life Multi-Family Management LLC, Emert's employer and the management company responsible for the property that they rented from and sought to get them to pressure their employee to leave them alone. Unfortunately, that complaint went nowhere.

Here is a description of the harassment faced by the couple, as identified on the Iowa Civil Rights Commision's website:
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that an on-site maintenance technician, Allen Emert, verbally harassed the two men by calling them derogatory terms and slurs, and making offensive gestures on an almost daily basis during March and April 2011. Mr. Emert directed words such as “fag,” “queer,” “butt pirate,” and “pillow biter” towards Mr. Anderson and Mr. Morehouse. Mr. Anderson complained about the harassment to New Life’s on-site property manager, Christine Clark, who failed to take any corrective action. Mr. Anderson then complained to Shirley Spencer at New Life’s corporate office about the harassment and she likewise failed to take any corrective action. The jury also heard evidence that the harassment began early in March, 2011 after Mr. Emert discovered that Messrs. Anderson and Morehouse were sharing a one-bedroom apartment. From that time until they left the complex in April 2011, Mr. Emert harassed the two men on an almost daily basis. The jury also heard that besides calling Messrs. Anderson and Morehouse “faggots” to their faces, Mr. Emert also referred to them by this epithet and other derogatory terms to other New Life employees and residents.
So the couple filed a lawsuit against New Life Multi-Family Management LLC with the assistance of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. And their lawsuit was very successful:
Jurors awarded $22,000 in economic damages to Charles Anderson and Brandon Morehead, plus $50,000 for emotional distress and $75,000 in punitive damages, according to a news release issued by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which brought filed a lawsuit on the couple’s behalf...

The four-day jury trial ended in a finding that New Life had discriminated against Anderson and Morehead based on their sexual orientation.
I'm sure we will hear from culture warriors who argue that Emert and his employer shouldn't be punished for their opinion. But Anderson and Morehouse were stuck by a lease at that property and had certain financial and legal obligations to their landlord under Iowa law. The same reflects back on New Life Multi-Family Management LLC.

Updated on 06/12/13: Aksarbent posted a link today to a KETV news report that demonstrates that this wasn't just a simple case of rude behavior and name-calling. It also involved threats of violence and an illegal three-day eviction.

Check this out:



Here are more details from the KETV report:
According to a lawsuit filed by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, a maintenance technician employed by New Life Multi-Family told Anderson he would, “Get him one of these times and it would all be over with,” and he was “going to beat him with a lead pipe.”

When Anderson complained to apartment management, New Life Multi-Family took no action to address the multiple complaints of harassment. Instead, management began the process to evict the couple, giving them three days to get out.

“I'm like, ‘Man, this is not right. This is what happened. This is not right,’" Anderson said. “We didn't get our deposit back. We didn't get our months’ rent that we paid.”

Anderson and Morehead moved out, but the Iowa Civil Rights Commission stepped in to file a lawsuit against New Life Multi-Family Management on behalf of the couple. On Friday, a jury ruled unanimously in the couple’s favor, awarding them $147,000 in damages.
The couple lost their deposit and a month's rent when they were served with a three day notice through "clear and present danger" eviction proceedings.

Lastly, I'm not sure about the names of one of the plaintiffs. I'm seen him listed as Brandon Morehead and as Brandon Morehouse. If someone could clarify this for me, it would be much appreciated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Morehouse. See https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/ESAWebApp/TIndexFrm