Iowa Fair Housing News

Gay couple awarded $147,000 in damages
Bluffs jury says apartment maintenance man’s harassment constituted discrimination.

By Jeff Eckhoff

[email protected]

An apartment complex’s management company will have to pay $147,000 to two gay men after a Council Bluffs jury found the couple had been discriminated against by an on-site maintenance man and others who failed to stop the harassment.

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 had sued on the couple’s behalf.

According to the commission, jurors heard testimony that Allen Emert, a maintenance technician for the apartment complex management company, New Life Multi- Family Management LLC, repeatedly harassed the defendants and called them names after he learned in March 2011 that they were sharing a one-bedroom apartment.

Two of Emert’s supervisors failed to stop the daily epithets, which included, among other things, “queer” and “pillow biters.”

The four-day jury trial ended in a finding that New Life Multi-Family Management had discriminated against Anderson and Morehead based on their sexual orientation.

“As the jury in this case determined, there is no place in the state of Iowa for such outrageous and illegal activity, and failure to stop such behavior can result in serious penalties to responsible parties,” Beth Townsend, director of the rights commission, said in the news release. “The Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act were both written to ensure that Iowans are as free from discrimination and harassment in their housing as they would be in their place of employment.”