Brown, Lee, Young v. Reese Pfeiffer; United States v. Pfeiffer

Two lawsuits, joined together as a collaboration between Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and the U.S. Department of Justice, permanently removed landlord Reese Pfeiffer from a career as a property manager. Pfeiffer, accused of sexually harassing 23 tenants, was ordered to pay $736,000 to victims and a $14,000 civil penalty to the United States. Separately, Pfeiffer and his co-defendants agreed to pay $140,000 in attorneys’ fees to MMLA.

In 2019, a team of MMLA lawyers went after Pfeiffer under the Fair Housing Act arguing 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 the DOJ identified 23 victims.

“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 stated. “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 charges, found to be fictitious, 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.

MMLA attorneys Rebecca Stillman, Justin Perl and Anne Robertson were awarded Attorneys of the Year honors, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bahram Samie and Ann Bildtsen, for their efforts in finding relief for their clients and effectively removing this landlord from the property management business.

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