NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans landlord is facing allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment. A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the property owner of only renting units to young, attractive women - and even offering to exchange rent for sexual favors.
It’s more than 20 pages of eyebrow-raising allegations.
The lawsuit, filed against 53-year-old Jerry Wayne Kelly Jr., details claims of discrimination and harassment.
"The allegations that have been put forth are very concerning," said Cashauna Hill.
Hill is with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. She says the organization filed the suit after complaints about Kelly on social media.
According to the lawsuit, “the women detailed that Defendant Kelly created a hostile environment so severe that numerous tenants broke their leases and risked penalties rather than endure Kelly’s sexually harassing behavior.” That included “repeated demands for dates, offers to exchange rent for sexual favors, and his unauthorized entries into rental units while tenants were alone and vulnerable.”
"Around the same time, we were also contacted by a former leasing agent who worked very closely with Mr. Kelly who reported she witnessed unlawful discrimination," Hill said.
The suit indicates that leasing agent stated Kelly prefers to rent to “young, skinny, white girls” and said she “personally witnessed Defendant Kelly turn away more qualified men to rent to women.”
We spoke to one applicant who says he experienced the discrimination firsthand.
“He didn’t try to get my, I guess, qualifications, and immediately said there are better-qualified candidates out there,” said the man.
Hill says they saw it, too, while conducting their own independent investigation with trained "mystery shoppers".
“In this case, the female testers we sent out were contacted by Mr. Kelly, and they did have access to the rental properties, whereas male testers received no callbacks and didn’t have access to the property,” explained Hill.
Yet, the suit indicates it didn't end there. It alleges Kelly also made "sexually suggestive comments about the female testers' appearances" and even "implied that he would adjust his rental terms based on their physical appearances."
Hill says it's a bigger issue than many realize.
“We know sexual harassment and housing is severely under-reported mostly because victims may not know where they can turn for assistance. Also, because the community does not have an understanding this kind of behavior may even be illegal,” Hill said.
Meanwhile, Kelly’s alleged victim says he wants justice.
“I just hope he gets what he deserves,” said the man.
Repeated efforts to contact Kelly by phone were unsuccessful.