LIEB BLOG

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Showing posts with label housing discrimination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label housing discrimination. Show all posts

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Pride Month: 5 Tips to Stop Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

While sexual orientation and gender identity aren't expressly set forth protected classes from discrimination on the federal level in the United States, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is a Supreme Court case that makes sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination illegal. Plus, many states and local governments offer further protection and damages to victims of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. 

Here are 5 tips to stop this heinous discrimination and create equality in our society for all. 

  1. Don't Miss Deadlines: Federal discrimination lawsuits provide only 2 years from the wrongful act to bring a lawsuit. Some states extend this to 3 years. However, there are often much shorter timelines dependent on who the perpetrator is, so act immediately. To illustrate, employment discrimination generally requires a filing with the EEOC within 300 days. Plus, a collective bargaining agreement can limit the statute of limitations for union workers even further. Alternatively, if the government is the defendant, a notice may need to be filed within 3 months or less. So, act swiftly if you are a victim.
  2. Don't Forget the Past: Just because deadlines exist from the last act of discrimination, it's possible to leverage a law called the Continuing Violation Doctrine to reprise untimely acts of discrimination in a lawsuit. So, make sure that you bring every wrongful act that you have experienced to the table if you are a victim of discrimination. That is the only way it can be stopped.
  3. Discrimination is NOT Just Physical: If an environment is hostile and filled with harassment, that is enough to bring a lawsuit. In fact, states like New York lower the hostile environment standard from the federal rule of severe and pervasive to inferior terms and conditions so long as the harassment rises above petty slights and trivial inconveniences. If you feel harassed because of your orientation or gender identity speak up now.
  4. It Goes Beyond Your Actual Orientation and Gender Identity: Your actual sexual orientation and gender identity are clearly protected from discrimination, but did you know that you are protected from discrimination even if the perpetrator got it wrong. The law also protects your perceived orientation and identity, which is particularly important for orientation because orientation needn't be confirmed from consistent sexual acts to exist.  
  5. Retaliation is Illegal: Don't be afraid to speak up out of fear of reprisal. Simply, if you experience any negative retaliation whatsoever when you are fighting back against discrimination that you are experiencing, you can sue for that retaliation too. If retaliation happens at work, housing, education, places of public accommodation, or many other places, you can receive money damages for retaliation plus the court can order it stopped with your prior situation restored. 




 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Housing Discrimination FAQs

Is real estate discrimination illegal?

Yes. Discrimination in real estate is illegal throughout the United States. In some states, like New York, there are even greater protections, rights, and damages available to victims of housing discrimination. You are entitled to compensation whether you were discriminated against by a seller, landlord, tenant co-op, condo, HOA, lender, real estate broker, salesperson, or property manager.

 

Does real estate discrimination only apply to housing?

No. Real Estate discrimination laws apply to both housing and places of public accommodation. Examples include shopping centers, professional offices, retail stores, recreational facilities, service centers, and educational institutions.

 

Can I sue for housing discrimination?

Yes. Not only is it possible to sue for real estate discrimination, but Lieb at Law, P.C.  has helped countless individuals recover compensatory damages and punitive damages for the emotional distress inflicted by this unlawful act. If you or a loved one were discriminated against because of your protected status or class, it is critical to work with an experienced attorney who will fight to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.  

 

What qualifies as discrimination?

Discrimination is classified as unfair treatment to an individual because of their protected status or class. These statuses/classes vary throughout the United States, but may include race, ethnic background, visible traits (hair texture, hairstyle, donning of religious garments or items), color, national origin, citizenship status, alienage status, immigration status, lawful source of income (subsidy recipient status), occupation, religion, creed, marital status, partnership status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (transgender status), domestic violence victim status, stalking victim status, sex offense victim status, familial status, pregnancy, presence of children, handicap (disability), age, military status, uniformed service, veteran status, first responder status, arrest record, and sealed conviction record.

 

Can a real estate / housing provider change the terms of a lease or contract based on my protected class?

No. The law prevents real estate / housing providers from changing the terms, conditions, privileges, and/or availability of property based on your protected class status. It requires real estate brokers / salespersons to give you written disclosures that advise you of your rights. It prevents you from being treated differently from others where only the terms of your offer matter, not who you are.

 

Are handicapped individuals entitled to housing accommodations?

Yes. If you are handicapped or disabled, you are entitled to receive reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications to allow you to equally use and enjoy the property. Your actual diagnosis does not need to be revealed and can remain confidential if you seek an accommodation or modification. In addition, the cost of the accommodation cannot be charged to you. In places like New York City, the cost of modifications cannot be charged to you either.

 

What are common examples of disability cases concerning housing discrimination?

The most common handicap and disability cases that we see involve service animals or emotional support animals in no pet properties. Other types of cases include parking issues, egress ramps for mobility impairments, and additional failure-to-accommodate cases. When it comes to accommodating the rights of handicapped and disabled individuals, providing access is essential.

 

Can I be discriminated against based on my source of income?

Whether you receive subsidies, like Section 8 (Housing Choice Vouchers), or are unemployed and receive child support, disability, spousal support, or have a trust fund, your source of income cannot impact your housing choices. The law protects you from offensive signage, improper applications, and/or wrongful questionnaires if they inquire about your employment status, request your W-2, or solicit a letter of employment. Where you get your rent money is your business and yours alone.

 

Can I be retaliated against if I proceed with a discrimination lawsuit?

Don't be afraid to speak-up. If you are advancing a fair housing and/or anti-discrimination right, you are protected from retaliation. Even if it is ultimately found that you were not discriminated against, you can be compensated for facing unlawful coercion, intimidation, threats, or other types of interference with your anti-discrimination rights. It also applies if you are an ally who is aiding and/or encouraging someone else to exercise their rights to be free from discrimination.

 

What happens if I win my housing discrimination case?

As the victim, you can recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and your attorneys’ fees. The perpetrator can lose their license (if applicable), be required to take trainings, be made to pay fines, and be ordered to stop their offensive behavior. Working with a top discrimination attorney affords you the best possible chance at a successful outcome to your case. If you or a loved one has been treated unfairly and is in need of legal assistance, contact our team today.




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Monday, May 16, 2022

New NYS Discrimination Law Enacted - Victims of Domestic Violence Protected

On May 13, 2022, NYS protected victims of domestic violence from discrimination in credit, housing, educational institutions, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Even real estate brokers are subject to this law and everyone needs to know that they must treat victims with the respect and support that they need and deserve. 


While domestic violence victims have been protected from employment discrimination since 2019, within the state, the new law, S8417B, even expands this category by now making employment applications and advertisements subject to the law. 


Simply, if you are a victim of domestic violence, you have rights. This applies to the "1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men [who] will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime" according to CDC reports. Simply, you are not alone and if you experience discrimination you have the right to be compensated. 






Friday, April 22, 2022

Housing Discrimination & Your Rights - What Victims Should Know

Discrimination in real estate is illegal throughout the United States and in certain states, like New York, there are even greater protections, rights, and damages available to victims.


Whether you were discriminated against by a seller, landlord, tenant co-op, condo, HOA, lender, real estate broker / salesperson, or property manager, you are entitled to compensation. This is true in housing and at places of public accommodation (i.e., shopping center, professional office, retail store, educational institution, recreational facility, and service center). This is often even true if the discrimination was unintentional or caused by the perpetrator's implicit biases.


Anti-discrimination rights and protections entitle victims to sue for compensation if discrimination occurred because of your protected status / protected class, which statuses / classes vary throughout the United States, but may include your race, ethnic background, visible traits (hair texture, hairstyle, donning of religious garments or items), color, national origin, citizenship status, alienage status, immigration status, lawful source of income (subsidy recipient status), occupation, religion, creed, marital status, partnership status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (transgender status), domestic violence victim status, stalking victim status, sex offense victim status, familial status, pregnancy, presence of children, handicap (disability), age, military status, uniformed service, veteran status, first responder status, arrest record, and sealed conviction record.


The law prevents real estate / housing providers from changing the terms, conditions, privileges, and/or availability of property based on your protected class status. It requires real estate brokers / salespersons to give you written disclosures that advise you of your rights. It prevents you from being treated differently from others where only the terms of your offer matter, not who you are.


If you are handicapped / disabled, you are also entitled to receive reasonable accommodations (change to policies / procedures / rules) and reasonable modification (change to structure) so that you can equally use and enjoy property. Plus, your actual diagnosis need not be fully revealed and can remain confidential when you seek such an accommodation / modification. Better yet, the cost of the accommodation cannot be charged to you, and in places like New York City, this is also true for the cost of modifications. The most common handicap / disability cases that we see involve service animals / emotional support animals in no pet properties, preferential / parking and ingress / egress ramps for mobility impairments, and other failure-to-accommodate cases. We are also involved in ADA failure-to-remove barrier cases and more. When it comes to handicapped / disabled people, it's all about providing access. 


If you receive subsidies, like Section 8 (Housing Choice Vouchers), or you are unemployed (i.e., retired, spousal / child support recipient, trust fund baby, student, disabled), your source of income cannot impact your housing choices. You are protected from offensive signage, improper applications, and/or wrongful questionnaires if they inquire about your employment status, request your W-2, or even solicit a letter of employment. Simply, seeing your voucher cannot be a prerequisite to seeing / viewing an apartment. Where you get the rent should be no one's business. 


Don't be afraid to speak-up. If you are advancing a fair housing and/or anti-discrimination right, you are protected from retaliation. Even if it is ultimately found that you were not discriminated against, you can nonetheless be compensated for facing unlawful coercion, intimidation, threats, or other types of interference with your anti-discrimination rights. This is not just true if you are advancing your own rights, it also applies if you are an ally who is aiding and/or encouraging someone else to exercise their rights to be free from discrimination.


Fair housing laws make housing available to everyone without stigma, loss of dignity, or other harms. If you are a victim, you can recover compensatory damages (being made whole), punitive damages (punishment damages), and your attorneys' fees. The perpetrator can lose their license (if licensed), be required to take trainings, and be ordered to stop their offensive behavior. There are fines and more. Discrimination is wrong and must be stopped.



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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

More Attorneys' Fees Available under NYS Human Rights Law for Discrimination Cases

On March 18, 2022, Governor Hochul signed S7733 into law and clarified that "the awarding of attorney's fees in credit discrimination cases is not limited to only those discrimination cases alleging sex-based discrimination."


This law is particularly important for race discrimination, which is highly prevalent in the credit discrimination arena. 


Regardless, whenever a victim can recover his / her / its legal fees incident to overcoming discrimination, that's a good thing and this clarification is helpful for discrimination victims throughout NYS.




Friday, March 18, 2022

5 Tips if you Face Discrimination

If you think that you are being discriminated against at work, in housing, within education, or during any other aspect of your life, you should take the following 5 steps immediately:


  1. Make Records: Memory fades and uncorroborated facts are unbelievable so you need to create evidence if you plan to bring a discrimination claim. If you live in a state like NY, where recording a conversation only requires one-party consent, then, start recording all of your conversations with witnesses and perpetrators immediately. If not, stick to a daily diary of events. Either way, get that evidence recorded starting now.
  2. Save Documents: If discrimination is occuring at work, make sure to take all of your employment agreements, policy manuals, and procedure documents and put them onto your personal computer or turn them into printed form. If discrimination is happening in housing, compile your lease, house rules, and all other written documents and make sure they are similarly saved. Remember, from the moment that you believe that you are a discrimination victim, you need to start creating a file of all the relevant documents to the discriminatory events, including everything peripheral thereto. When in doubt as to whether a document is relevant, save the document. 
  3. Befriend Witnesses: They say it takes a village and that couldn't be more true when you are trying to overcome discrimination that is wronging you. To win a discrimination case, you need allies and advocates in your corner. Did you know that your allies are also protected under discrimination law and can bring a claim themselves if they face retaliation for assisting you? 
  4. Stay Strong: Most victims are afraid to fight for their rights because they fear that they will face a worse situation if they speak up. If this is you, please know that every act of retaliation against you gives you a further legal claim against the perpetrator. Did you know that even if you lose your discrimination case, you can still recover damages on a retaliation claim? So, don't be afraid to speak up and fight for your rights.  
  5. Protect Yourself: This is the most important tip that we can give. You should always worry less about your ability to sue for damages incident to being discriminated against and worry more about being safe. If you feel in danger, always get out of that situation immediately and call the police. 

Finally, remember to always consult with an attorney because your attorneys' legal fees are recoverable as damages in a discrimination claim and nothing replaces receiving tailored advice for your specific situation before you act to stop it. 



Thursday, March 17, 2022

Notice of Tenants' Rights to Reasonable Modifications and Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities

On March 16, 2022, the NYS Division of Human Rights published Revised Rule Making, HRT-15-21-00005-RP (proposed 19 NYCRR 466.15), with respect to the notice that tenants must receive, which explains their rights to receive reasonable modifications and accommodations in housing. 


The proposed regulation provides that:

  • Real Estate Brokers are charged with making this disclosure "[u]pon the first substantive contact." 
  • Housing providers are charged with providing this disclosure to current and new tenants. 
  • Housing providers must post the notice on all of their websites.


Here is what the notice should state:

NOTICE DISCLOSING TENANTS’ RIGHTS TO REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES 

Reasonable Accommodations

The New York State Human Rights Law requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations or modifications to a building or living space to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

For example, if you have a physical, mental, or medical impairment, you can ask your housing provider to make the common areas of your building accessible, or to change certain policies to meet your needs.

To request a reasonable accommodation, you should contact your property manager by calling —or —, or by e-mailing — * . You will need to inform your housing provider that you have a disability or health problem that interferes with your use of housing, and that your request for accommodation may be necessary to provide you equal access and opportunity to use and enjoy your housing or the amenities and services normally offered by your housing provider.

A housing provider may request medical information, when necessary to support that there is a covered disability and that the need for the accommodation is disability related.

If you believe that you have been denied a reasonable accommodation for your disability, or that you were denied housing or retaliated against because you requested a reasonable accommodation, you can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights as described at the end of this notice. 

Specifically, if you have a physical, mental, or medical impairment, you can request: 

  • Permission to change the interior of your housing unit to make it accessible (however, you are required to pay for these modifications, and in the case of a rental your housing provider may require that you restore the unit to its original condition when you move out); 
  • Changes to your housing provider’s rules, policies, practices, or services;
  • Changes to common areas of the building so you have an equal opportunity to use the building. The New York State Human Rights Law requires housing providers to pay for reasonable modifications to common use areas.

Examples of reasonable modifications and accommodations that may be requested under the New York State Human Rights Law include:

  • If you have a mobility impairment, your housing provider may be required to provide you with a ramp or other reasonable means to permit you to enter and exit the building.
  • If your healthcare provider provides documentation that having an animal will assist with your disability, you should be permitted to have the animal in your home despite a “no pet” rule.
  • If you need grab bars in your bathroom, you can request permission to install them at your own expense.
  • If your housing was built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 and the walls need to be reinforced for grab bars, your housing provider must pay for that to be done.
  • If you have an impairment that requires a parking space close to your unit, you can request your housing provider to provide you with that parking space, or place you at the top of a waiting list if no adjacent spot is available.
  • If you have a visual impairment and require printed notices in an alternative format such as large print font, or need notices to be made available to you electronically, you can request that accommodation from your landlord.

Required Accessibility Standards All buildings constructed for use after March 13, 1991, are required to meet the following standards:

  • Public and common areas must be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities;
  • All doors must be sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons in wheelchairs; and
  • All multi-family buildings must contain accessible passageways, fixtures, outlets, thermostats, bathrooms, and kitchens.

If you believe that your building does not meet the required accessibility standards, you can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

How to File a Complaint A complaint must be filed with the Division within one year of the alleged discriminatory act. You can find more information on your rights, and on the procedures for filing a complaint, by going to www.dhr.ny.gov, or by calling 1-888-392-3644 with questions about your rights. You can obtain a complaint form on the website, or one can be e-mailed or mailed to you. You can also call or e-mail a Division regional office. The regional offices are listed on the website.


The public can comment on this Revised Rule Making until April 30, 2022 by email to  Caroline.Downey@dhr.ny.gov with subject of I.D. No. HRT-15-21-00005-RP



Of note, this Proposed Rule was already revised based on prior public comment. Based on that prior comments, the Revised Rule now:
  1. Includes a posting requirement;
  2. Language change from "doctor" to "healthcare provider" with respect to proving disabilities;
  3. Language change from "show" a disability to "inform" of a disability;
  4. The regulation also now explains the statute of limitations of 3 years to file a complaint in court;
  5. Adding that the failure of a housing provider to respond to a reasonable accommodation request may also be considered a denial of a reasonable accommodation;
  6. Clarifying when a provider may reasonably request particular documentation about a disability or need for an accommodation; and
  7. That the notice requires owners and landlords, not real estate agents, to provide contact information for property managers in the notice.
The response to those comments also acknowledges that there is no express enforcement mechanism for failure to comply with the notice requirement besides from the fact, that we surmise, it will be relevant in a failure-to-accommodate lawsuit and under license law for licensed professionals. 


Finally, the Division of Human Rights declined to include advice about the availability of attorneys' fees for plaintiffs in discrimination lawsuits in response to comment. We strenuously disagree with this decision because this lack of disclosure will demotivate victims from seeking the professional help that they desperately need and we hope that you, the public, will comment, again, to remind the Division of this important fact.  



Thursday, December 23, 2021

Update! New York is Ready to Receive Your Calls on Housing Discrimination

New law establishes a dedicated phone line for public use to voice complaints of housing discrimination. New York State’s Division of Human Rights will operate the phone line during regular business hours. The phone number will be posted on the Division of Human Rights website.


The law becomes effective, 120 days after December 21, 2021. 


Nothing in this Bill prevents you from hiring an attorney to pursue damages resulting from discriminatory conduct. If you believe that you suffered injuries as a result of housing discrimination, you may be entitled to compensatory damages and punitive damages plus, you can have your attorneys' fees paid for by the defendant. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

New York is Ready to Receive Your Calls on Housing Discrimination

The New York State Legislature passed Bill S3437C that establishes a dedicated phone line for public use to voice complaints of housing discrimination. New York State’s Division of Human Rights will operate the phone line during regular business hours. The phone number will be posted on the Division of Human Rights website.


The Bill amends Human Rights Executive Law The General Powers of the Human Rights Division, Section 295 . It awaits the Governor's signature to become effective, as law, 120 days after it is signed.

 

Nothing in this Bill prevents you from hiring an attorney to pursue damages resulting from discriminatory conduct. If you believe that you suffered injuries as a result of housing discrimination, you may be entitled to compensatory damages and punitive damages plus, you can have your attorneys' fees paid for by the defendant. 



Friday, December 10, 2021

Increased Discrimination Training For Real Estate Brokers & Salespersons

Starting on July 1, 2022, Bill (S2132B) will add increased fair housing and discrimination training for Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons. 


Summary:

  • Requires course content to include:
    1. Legacy of segregation, unequal treatment, and historic lack of access to opportunity in housing;
    2. Unequal access to amenities and resources on the basis of race, disability and other protected characteristics;
    3. Federal, state, and local fair housing laws;
    4. Anti-Bias training.
  • Requires 152 hours of training to obtain a Real Estate Broker license
  • Requires 77 hours of training to become a licensed Real Estate Salesperson
  • Requires approval of faculty to sign a document, under oath, approved by and submitted to the Department of State, attesting to compliance with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements pertaining to the instruction of the established curriculum. There will be penalties for faculty that fail to meet their obligations including suspension and revocation of their instructor certificate.





Thursday, September 16, 2021

Are Minimum Income-to-Rent Policies Discriminatory?

Landlords and brokers should pay close attention to Long Island Housing Servs. Inc. v. NPS Holiday Square LLC in the Eastern District of New York


This case addressed whether minimum income requirements for rentals are discriminatory. 


What do you think?


Should a landlord be able to screen tenants based on their income?


The landlords in this case utilize "a two-to-one income requirement, which generally requires applicants without housing vouchers to have an income double the monthly rent." If they have vouchers, the vouchers are credited "as one month's rent and [the] applicants [] have [to have] an income equal to between 80 percent and 100 percent of one month's rent." 


To be discriminatory, this policy would have to have "'a significantly adverse or disproportionate impact' on housing voucher users." 


Currently the plaintiffs and defendants are battling over experts, but this case is going to teach landlords, brokers, property managers, and the like how to frame their policies moving forward. 


So, keep a close eye on this one. 




Monday, August 02, 2021

Lieb Quoted in Newsday Article on Section 8 Vouchers & Discrimination

Check out Maura McDermott's Newsday article, Ruling: Suffolk complex broke law spurning Section 8 housing vouchers.

In the article, I'm quoted as saying that "Starting in September, a new state law requires state agencies and nonprofits that administer housing subsidies to give recipients written notice about their fair-housing rights" and that "fair-housing enforcement has become a higher priority at the local, state and federal level, which he said was prompted by Newsday’s 2019 Long Island Divided project, a three-year investigation into housing bias."

The article is about how Long Island Housing Services filed suit after "its testers were told the complex did not accept federal housing-choice subsidies, also known as Section 8 vouchers."

Do you think we should have more testers in society to route out housing discrimination?

Who should pay for these testers?

In the article, it said that Long Island Housing Services paid $23,855 for the testors - that's a lot of $$$




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

John Oliver Tackles Fair Housing - Newsday's Long Island Divided is on HBO

If you still don't understand that housing discrimination happens or if you are confused about the long term impacts of discrimination, you need to watch this great explanation of housing discrimination on HBO by John Oliver - it's a must watch for anyone who doesn't understand that housing discrimination from yesterday impacts lives today. 


Alternatively, here is The Lieb Cast tackling the same issue on our podcast back on January 31, 2021. 


Who does the topic better; Lieb or Oliver?


Shouldn't John have Lieb on his show?


What do you think?




Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Filing a Discrimination Complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights Just Got Easier

As of July 16, 2021, discrimination victims need not have their discrimination complaints notarized before filing them with the NYS Division of Human Rights, per a change to Executive Law 297(1)


This applies to both victims of employment discrimination and housing discrimination.


According to the laws justification, the notarization requirement "discourage[d] people from filing complaints" and the Division nonetheless received over 6,000 complaints annually. 


How many complaints will the Division receive now? 


Do you think that this new law makes sense? 


Does it matter if a document is notarized? 


Shouldn't preventing discrimination be as easy as pie? 





Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Attention Landlords - Source of Income Discrimination Lawsuits are Coming as of 9/14/2021

On July 16, 2021, new Executive Law 170-e was signed into law and requires that all administrators of housing assistance (governmental / nonprofits) ensure that "individuals who have applied for and are eligible to receive such assistance, payment, subsidy or credit are informed, in writing, of their rights and remedies available under law, with regard to lawful source of income discrimination.”


The law is effective as of September 14, 2021 and that is an important deadline for landlords, brokers, and property managers to get up to speed on the rules to avoid source of income discrimination in their ranks.


To illustrate, a housing provider who requests a credit score from a voucher recipient could be discrimination, a housing provider who demands a minimum income from a voucher recipient could be discrimination, and a housing provider who makes receipt of a voucher a precondition to seeing units could be discriminating.


Do you have policies in place to avoid your team discriminating and subjecting you to a major lawsuit??


More so, those policies better include the forthcoming regulations that the State Division of Human Rights is going to promulgate to particularize this new law.


Are you ready? 






Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Housing Discrimination Plaintiffs Now Have Two Bites at the Apple

Monday, November 02, 2020

New Discrimination Standard Under the Fair Housing Act is Effective

Effective October 26, 2020, HUD implemented a new disparate impact fair housing standard.

 

Disparate impact discrimination occurs when housing practices have an unjustified discriminatory effect even though they were not motivated by a discriminatory intent. 


The new standard exists at 24 CFR 100.500 and it makes a claim of disparate impact discrimination far harder to bring and even harder to prove as compared to the prior HUD standard.


Previously, the regulation did not contain an express pleading standard and instead, only required the plaintiff to prove "that a challenged practice caused or predictably will cause a discriminatory effect." 


Now a plaintiff must "sufficiently plead facts to support each of the following elements: (1) That the challenged policy or practice is arbitrary, artificial, and unnecessary to achieve a valid interest or legitimate objective such as a practical business, profit, policy consideration, or requirement of law; (2) That the challenged policy or practice has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of a protected class; (3) That there is a robust causal link between the challenged policy or practice and the adverse effect on members of a protected class, meaning that the specific policy or practice is the direct cause of the discriminatory effect; (4) That the alleged disparity caused by the policy or practice is significant; and (5) That there is a direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged."


With respect to the 3rd element, that is a very heavy burden for a plaintiff to satisfy at the pleading stage of litigation because the requisite evidence is often unavailable until the parties have engaged in the discovery process. 


Moreover, while the prior regulation provided that a defendant would then have to rebut the claim by "proving that the challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests[,]" a defendant now can just rebut the first element "by producing evidence showing that the challenged policy or practice advances a valid interest (or interests) and is therefore not arbitrary, artificial, and unnecessary." Changing the term from a "substantial" interest to "a valid interest" results in the defendant's burden seemingly being far lower.

 

Moreover, under the new standard, once the defendant rebuts the first element, "the plaintiff must prove by the preponderance of the evidence either that the interest (or interests) advanced by the defendant are not valid or that a less discriminatory policy or practice exists that would serve the defendant’s identified interest (or interests) in an equally effective manner without imposing materially greater costs on, or creating other material burdens for, the defendant." Previously, this was the defendant's burden. 


Regardless, there are now also 3 express defenses available, including that "(i) The policy or practice is intended to predict an occurrence of an outcome, the prediction represents a valid interest, and the outcome predicted by the policy or practice does not or would not have a disparate impact on protected classes compared to similarly situated individuals not part of the protected class, with respect to the allegations under paragraph (b). This is not an adequate defense, however, if the plaintiff demonstrates that an alternative, less discriminatory policy or practice would result in the same outcome of the policy or practice, without imposing materially greater costs on, or creating other material burdens for the defendant. (ii) The plaintiff has failed to establish that a policy or practice has a discriminatory effect under paragraph (c) of this section. (iii) The defendant’s policy or practice is reasonably necessary to comply with a third party requirement, such as a: (A) Federal, state, or local law; (B) Binding or controlling court, arbitral, administrative order or opinion; or (C) Binding or controlling regulatory, administrative, or government guidance or requirement."


Housing participants should be particularly interested in the third available defense in the form of a controlling administrative opinion or binding regulatory guidance. It is strenuously suggested that every housing industry participant seeks such opinion or guidance as a necessary incident of any business plan covering a new product or service. To fail to do so is just reckless in a world where such a defense exists. 


That being said, it is noted that this regulation only pertains to a federal housing discrimination claim and states and locales may offer increased protections to their citizens. So, these other laws must also be analyzed for housing participants to the extent that they afford disparate impact claims (e.g., NYC Admin. Code). 







Thursday, July 02, 2020

5 Step Process For Employers/Landlords to Protect Against Disability Discrimination Lawsuits for Failure to Accommodate

A recent New York State, Appellate Division case (Hosking v. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) serves as a reminder to employers and landlords that they may be exposed to disability discrimination lawsuits if they do not engage in an "interactive process" prior to denying a reasonable accommodation request, even if the ultimate decision denying the accommodation is legal. As detailed in the above referenced case, a court will not even reach the step of determining whether the denial of the accommodation is legal if the employer/landlord fails to follow the proper process in evaluating the request.

To mitigate exposure to disability discrimination lawsuits (for failure to accommodate), employers/landlords should follow these steps:

1) Disseminate Policy: Employers/landlords should inform employees/tenants, in writing, that reasonable accommodations are provided to qualified individuals and of the process to request a reasonable accommodation. Employers should include its reasonable accommodation policy in its employee handbook and landlords should include its reasonable accommodation policy in its application and/or make the policy available onsite.

2) Provide Reasonable Accommodation Request Form: Employers/landlords should prepare a form for individuals requesting an accommodation to complete. Questions on the request form should include:
  • General information of employee/tenant (i.e. name, contact information)
  • Nature of the disability
  • Requested/suggested accommodation(s) 
3) Review and Discuss with Employee/Tenant:
  • Review accommodation request
  • Request supporting medical documentation if necessary from employee/tenant to properly evaluate request 
  • Discuss effectiveness/feasibility/reasonableness of potential accommodation(s) with employee/tenant  
4) Analyze Whether an Undue Hardship Exists: Employers/landlords are not required to provide an accommodation if providing such accommodation would present an undue hardship. Elements an employer/landlord should analyze include:
  • Cost of the accommodation
  • Resources of the employer/landlord
  • Impact on operation of workplace/facility
5) Draft Determination Letter and Submit to Employee/Tenant: The letter should include:
  • A summary of the interactive process
  • The accommodation provided
  • If an accommodation is denied, provide a detailed explanation (e.g. absence of an accommodation that would permit employee to perform essential functions of position, undue hardship)
  • If accommodation request is granted, a date to follow up on effectiveness of accommodation



Wednesday, April 01, 2020

It's Fair Housing Month - Coronavirus Discrimination Must Stop

Equal rights to housing is particularly important during this quarantine. 

A quarantine can be a very different experience dependent on your housing situation. Some people are sharing a bathroom with ten others while others are navigating between their indoor pool and their gym. Some have country homes to escape the city while others must walk stairwells infested with COVID-19. This is our current reality as a society. 

Make no mistake, in our capitalist society these differences should not only be accepted, but celebrated. Yet, these differences can only be caused by economic differences, not based upon the way we stigmatize people as a result of their demographic characteristics. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is observing the law today. According to the CDC, "fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things." In fact, the CDC has identified individuals of "Asian descent" as the current victims of stigma during the coronavirus pandemic. Let's change that starting today. 

Today is the start of Fair Housing Month. According to HUD, Fair Housing Month is a time to come together "as a community and a nation to celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act and recommit to that goal which inspired us in the aftermath of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968: to eliminate housing discrimination and create equal opportunity in every community.”

We should do it. We can do it. We must do it.


Friday, January 17, 2020

What Landlords & Brokers Can Discuss When Dealing With Tenants To Avoid Discrimination in Housing

Housing discrimination is very serious and exposes Landlords and Real Estate Brokers to major lawsuits for big money damages. Attorney Andrew Lieb, Esq. explains to real estate investors and brokers how to minimize exposure and not discriminate to potential tenants. Learn what to say and what not to say when dealing with prospective tenants to avoid getting sued.