New Orleans— Today, the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC), represented by LaFHAC attorneys and the Tulane Law School Civil Rights & Federal Practice Clinic, announced a U.S. District Court order enforcing a settlement agreement that prohibits New Orleans landlord Jerry Kelly Jr. from having any contact with tenants for ten years after allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. In its motion, LaFHAC documents multiple instances of Mr. Kelly violating nearly all provisions of the settlement agreement, with some violations occurring less than a month after the agreement was signed.
LaFHAC sued Mr. Kelly in 2018 over allegations that among other violations, he grabbed the buttocks of a woman during lease signing, entered a unit without notice while a tenant was showering, and exhibited a preference for renting to young women. The settlement, reached February 17, 2020, required Mr. Kelly to hire a professional property manager to handle business related to the properties, refrain from contact with prospective tenants, to notify tenants that he will have no contact with them unless they expressly opt in, and to send notice of a new sexual harassment policy and formal complaint procedure.
In August of 2021, LaFHAC submitted evidence to the court of Mr. Kelly texting with four different women tenants in March and April of 2020, none of which had received or signed a waiver opting into communication with him. When one of the women, who had learned of the settlement agreement, asked Mr. Kelly whether he had hired a new property manager, he replied “not really.”
LaFHAC also found multiple instances of Mr. Kelly communicating with prospective tenants seeking to rent his properties, in direct violation of the settlement agreement. Mr. Kelly was not hiding his involvement in property management duties, as his phone number was listed on a yard sign at one of the properties. Prospective renters were also referred to Mr. Kelly from property managers that had never been approved by LaFHAC, as required by the settlement agreement. One of these property managers found out later about the settlement and stated that she “wouldn’t have worked for [Mr. Kelly]” if she had been aware of it.
In addition, none of the seven tenants LaFHAC contacted received a new sexual harassment policy and only two of seven received the no contact notice. Those who received the no contact notice received it after the lease had been signed, and one tenant reported being pressured into signing the waiver to allow Mr. Kelly to contact her. Judge Sarah Vance of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ultimately ruled that Mr. Kelly’s contacts with prospective and current tenants were clear violations of the settlement and stated that further violations will be punishable as contempt.
“Mr. Kelly’s conduct, detailed in our initial lawsuit, was persistent and egregious, so his violations of the settlement agreement just continue that conduct,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director at LaFHAC. “Multiple women who independently learned of the lawsuit came forward to provide evidence for this motion to enforce the settlement agreement. We’re grateful for their action and encourage any person with knowledge of similar behavior to reach out to the Fair Housing Action Center,” she continued.
The motion to enforce the settlement is available here.
The judge’s order to enforce the settlement is available here.