A gay couple in Council Bluffs Iowa found out first-hand the value of a nondiscrimination law: $22,000 in damages, $50,000 for their emotional distress, and $75,000 in punitive damages. That’s what a jury awarded Charles Anderson and Brandon Morehead this week, for enduring the harassment of Allen Emert, a maintenance worker for Life Multi-Family Management LLC, the company that manages the apartment complex where the couple lived.
According to testimony in the four-day jury trial, Emert began subjecting the men to an almost daily campaign of verbal abuse back in 2011, when he discovered the two men shared a one-bedroom unit. Some of his favorite insults were “queer” and “pillow biter.” Complaints to his employer and the apartment complex failed to stop his offensive behavior.
Fortunately, Iowa has the Iowa Civil Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act, both of which make discrimination due to sexual orientation a crime. The The couple filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, who investigated, and filed suit against Emert’s employer on the couple’s behalf, claiming the company and two of his immediate supervisors made no effort to stop Emert from harassing Anderson and Morehead. The couple didn’t even have to hire an attorney or finance a lawsuit. The State of Iowa took on those burdens.
The jury agreed with the Civil Rights Commission, finding the company was responsible for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Beth Townsend, the director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission released this statement after the victory:
“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.”
There was no report on whether Emert will retain his job with the property management company, but with $147,000 in their pockets, here’s hoping Anderson and Morehead can now find a more gay-friendly place to call home.
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