United States District Court, D. Minnesota
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY
Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Shatara Brown's
motion for a temporary restraining order enjoining Defendants
from terminating Brown's lease of her home. (Dkt. 5.) For
the reasons addressed below, the Court grants Brown's
is a tenant of Defendant Reese Pfeiffer, acting on behalf of
Defendants Fruen & Pfeiffer LLP, Michael Fruen, and M
Fruen Properties LLC. Brown and two other tenants of
Defendants allege that, in connection with their respective
tenancies, Pfeiffer sexually harassed them by making several
requests for sexual favors, as well as sexual advances and
comments, towards them individually. Tenant-Plaintiffs allege
that Pfeiffer retaliated against them because they refused to
comply with his sexual harassment.
occasion before she began renting from Pfeiffer, Brown
asserts, “Pfeiffer ran his hand up and down [her]
thigh, massaging her leg, ” while assisting Brown with
completing documents needed for her to receive monetary
assistance from Hennepin County. Pfeiffer continued to touch
Brown's body and made sexually suggestive comments to her
on several other occasions. He also told Brown that she could
avoid paying certain fees and portions of rent in exchange
for sexual favors because he would love to “fuck the
shit out of [her].” Brown rejected each of
Pfeiffer's requests for sexual favors.
also alleges that Pfeiffer attempted to overcharge her rent,
security deposit, and other fees throughout her tenancy.
Because Brown was unable to pay these additional charges,
Pfeiffer filed an eviction action against her on July 17,
2019. Pfeiffer subsequently agreed to dismiss and expunge the
action. Pfeiffer filed a second eviction action against Brown
on September 16, 2019. Following a hearing, the Hennepin
County Housing Court dismissed and expunged the action.
October 31, 2019, Pfeiffer provided Brown a notice of lease
non-renewal, directing her to vacate the home by December 31,
2019. Pfeiffer subsequently filed a third eviction action
against Brown on December 6, 2019, and a trial in that action
currently is scheduled for January 15, 2020.
and two other tenants filed this action against Pfeiffer and
his business affiliates-Fruen & Pfeiffer LLP, Michael
Fruen, and M Fruen Properties LLC. Plaintiffs allege that, by
sexually harassing them, Pfeiffer discriminated against them
on the basis of sex, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631, and the Minnesota Human Rights
Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 363A. Plaintiffs also allege negligent
supervision under Minnesota common law. Brown seeks a
temporary restraining order enjoining Defendants from
terminating her lease. This Court issued a briefing schedule
on December 20, 2019, and ordered Defendants to file a
response by December 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. Defendants
failed to file a response within the time period permitted.
Rule of Civil Procedure 65 authorizes a district court to
grant injunctive relief in the form of a temporary
restraining order. When determining whether a temporary
restraining order is warranted, a district court considers
four factors: (1) the probability that the movant will
succeed on the merits, (2) the threat of irreparable harm to
the movant, (3) the balance between this harm and the injury
that an injunction would inflict on other parties, and (4)
the public interest. Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C L Sys.,
Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981). The burden to
establish that injunctive relief should be granted rests with
the movant. Watkins Inc. v. Lewis, 346 F.3d 841, 844
(8th Cir. 2003). The purpose of a temporary restraining order
is to maintain the status quo. Kelley v. First Westroads
Bank, 840 F.2d 554, 558 (8th Cir. 1988).
Likelihood of Success on the Merits
must demonstrate that she is likely to succeed on the merits
of her claims. See Dataphase, 640 F.2d at 114.
However, at this stage of the proceedings, the Court need not
assess Brown's probability of success on the merits
“with mathematical precision.” Gen. Mills,
Inc. v. Kellogg Co., 824 F.2d 622, 624 (8th Cir. 1987).
And Brown need not establish that she ultimately will win or
that a greater-than-50-percent likelihood of success exists.
See Glenwood Bridge, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis,
940 F.2d 367, 371 (8th Cir. 1991); Dataphase, 640
F.2d at 113. To satisfy this prong of the Dataphase
test, Brown only needs to demonstrate that she is likely to
succeed on one of her claims. See United Healthcare Ins.
Co. v. AdvancePCS, 316 F.3d 737, 742-43 (8th Cir. 2002).
prevail on a sexual-harassment claim under the Fair Housing
Act or the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Brown must prove that
Pfeiffer created “a hostile housing environment”
or engaged in “quid pro quo sexual harassment.”
United States v. Hurt, 676 F.3d 649, 654 (8th Cir.
2012) (quoting Quigley v. Winter, 598 F.3d 938,
946-47 (8th Cir. 2010)). Brown maintains that her quid pro
quo sexual-harassment claim is likely to succeed. Quid pro
quo sexual harassment “occurs when housing benefits are
explicitly or implicitly conditioned on sexual favors.”
Quigley, 598 F.3d at 947 (internal quotation marks
omitted). To prove quid pro quo sexual harassment, a
plaintiff must establish that (1) she was a member of a
protected class, (2) she was subjected to unwanted requests
for sexual favors, (3) the harassment was based on sex, and
(4) her submission to the unwanted advances was an express or
implied condition of receiving housing benefits. See
alleges that Pfeiffer told her that she could avoid paying a
portion of her rent or other lease-related fees if he could
“fuck the shit out of [her].” If proven,
Pfeiffer's statement demonstrates that Pfeiffer subjected
Brown to a request for a sexual favor, this harassment was
based on sex, and Brown's submission to the sexual
request was an express condition of receiving housing
benefits, namely relief from her rent obligation. Based on
this record, Brown has established that her claim for quid
pro quo ...