Tenants Allege Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
Today (Aug. 29, 2018), the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed suit in federal court against Jerry Kelly Jr. and a number of LLCs he owns. In the suit, former tenants and a previous leasing agent allege, among other things, that Kelly grabbed the buttocks of a woman during lease signing, entered a unit without notice while a tenant was showering, and exhibited a preference to rent to “young, skinny, White girls.”
“We often think of sexual harassment and discrimination as a workplace issue, but landlords are just as likely to abuse the power they hold over current and prospective tenants,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director at GNOFHAC. “The allegations in this case should concern us all, and we implore any person with knowledge of similar behavior to report their suspicions to the Fair Housing Action Center so that we can prevent future harm,” she continued.
GNOFHAC began its investigation into Kelly after former tenants of his multiple Uptown apartments made allegations against him on social media forums. Soon after, a former leasing agent with detailed knowledge of Kelly’s rental practices independently contacted GNOFHAC and corroborated that Mr. Kelly discriminated against current and prospective tenants based on sex.
One previous tenant, who was 20 years old at the time that she rented an apartment from Kelly, shared during an interview with GNOFHAC that Kelly repeatedly let himself into her apartment without warning, regularly asked her for dates, told her he would reduce her rent if she “set him up on a date” with one of her friends, and admitted he only rents to women. After six months, the tenant says she broke her lease and moved in with friends to escape Kelly’s advances.
The former leasing agent who contacted GNOFHAC reported that Kelly harassed several of his female tenants through sexual propositions, unauthorized and unannounced entry into their apartments, requests for dates, and multiple late-night phone calls.
GNOFHAC also conducted an undercover investigation of Kelly’s rental practices using mystery shoppers. One mystery shopper in her early 20s reported that during a conversation in his office, Kelly openly stared at her body and nibbled his lips as he looked at her legs. Kelly told another mystery shopper in her 30s that she was “an all grown up woman” and that she was too “pristine and together” to live in the apartment he was showing her. Kelly promptly and reliably returned the calls of female mystery shoppers and met with them in person about the advertised apartment units, but did not return any phone calls from male mystery shoppers.
GNOFHAC is represented in this matter by the Tulane Law School Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic and by GNOFHAC attorneys Elizabeth Owen and Peter Theis.