Settlement reached in harassment lawsuitMADISON – The owner of the Lowrey Hotel & Café has agreed to pay $50,000 and permanently ban a former manager to settle a Fair Housing lawsuit brought over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination of a female tenant.
By: Kevin Murphy, New Richmond News
MADISON – The owner of the Lowrey Hotel & Café has agreed to pay $50,000 and permanently ban a former manager to settle a Fair Housing lawsuit brought over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination of a female tenant.
A complaint filed in federal court alleged:
A guest at the Lowrey alleged that Gerald Hoglund, fiancé of owner Stacy Wright and co-manager, made repeated unwelcomed sexual advances toward the tenant.
Like other Lowrey tenants, the woman and her husband were homeless in January 2009 and had been referred to 37-room hotel by a local food pantry. The woman arranged with Wright to do odd jobs around the hotel to help earn the $350 monthly rent.
Wright advised the female tenant that if Hoglund asked her for oral sex she was to tell him that was inappropriate. The woman reported that she had previously seen police escort another woman from the Lowrey who had asked Wright to have Hoglund keep his hands off her.
During the next month, Hoglund made several sexual requests of the female tenant but she refused. Wright subsequently stopped giving the female tenant jobs but in order to afford to live there, the female tenant again went to Hoglund and asked for work.
Hoglund’s sexual requests continued despite the woman’s husband confronting Hoglund about them. Hoglund once allegedly exposed his genitals to the female tenant.
In March 2009, Hoglund learned that the tenant had told a social worker and others about the alleged harassment and told the woman to leave the hotel.
The woman subsequently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice which investigated the matter which resulted in their filing a suit against the Lowrey, Wright and Hoglund in November 2011.
The suit alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act which prohibits making sexual conduct a condition for tenancy.
In a consent decree, Wright denied all allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination but agreed to the settlement to avoid further legal costs.
In addition to Hoglund, now of McClusky, N.D., being prohibited from any involvement with the hotel, Wright has agreed to adopt a non-discrimination policy that conforms to the Fair Housing Act, undergo sex discrimination training and keep rental records available for inspection by federal authorities for five years.
In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney General John Vaudreuil said that no one should be subjected to unwanted sexual advances from any landlord.
“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,” said Vaudreuil.
A call to Wright’s attorney, Ryan Steffes, of Eau Claire wasn’t returned before deadline.