Discrimination Case Against PHA Allowed to Continue
Facts: A public housing resident appealed the dismissal of her civil rights suit against the local PHA and its property manager for alleged racial discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). In the original complaint, the resident alleged that during an encounter late in 2014, the property manager racially discriminated against her and harassed her on account of her child-custody issues. Because she is white and her male partner is black, the resident believed that race motivated the actions of the manager, who is also black. As a result, in January 2015, the resident filed a racial discrimination complaint with the state’s Human Rights Commission. On the same day that she filed her complaint with the Commission, the manager and the PHA allegedly retaliated against her in violation of the FHA by conducting ongoing “racially motivated” inspections of her unit and failing to provide repair services for her unit. The commission later issued a finding of no probable cause on her racial discrimination complaint.
The resident also asserted that the PHA discriminated and retaliated against her with regard to her lease recertification in 2015. Because of a time conflict she had, the PHA allowed her to reschedule her recertification appointment; she missed the new appointment, however, and the PHA notified her the next day that it was terminating her lease on April 25. The notice cited her failure to attend the recertification appointment and provide required documentation. The resident then filed this suit against the manager and the PHA.
On appeal, the resident primarily challenged the district court’s ruling that she did not allege sufficient facts to state a claim of racial discrimination.
Ruling: The Seventh Circuit appeals court ruled for the resident and sent the case back for a trial.
Reasoning: The court stated that the pleading standard for simple claims of racial or sex discrimination is “minimal.” According to the court, the resident had sufficiently alleged the kind of discrimination, its timing, and the identity of those responsible. Her complaint described the kind of discrimination that she believes occurred (racial), the timing of the alleged discrimination (December 2014 until May 2015), and the identity of those responsible (the manager and the PHA). She added that the inspections of her unit were “racially motivated” and that the lease recertification process was done “in pretext of race.” The court ruled that the district court was incorrect when it required the resident to plead more specific facts that would establish the defendants’ discriminatory intent because nothing more was required for the resident to state a claim of racial discrimination.
- Herndon v. Housing Authority of South Bend, Indiana, November 2016