PHA Not Required to Provide Special Meeting as Accommodation
Facts: In 2004, a family applied to the local housing authority (PHA) for a Section 8 voucher. After completing the verification process, the family received a follow-up letter notifying them that they were scheduled to attend an orientation or briefing meeting. The letter notified them that their attendance was mandatory and that the attendance of any household members age 18 and older was also mandatory.
The family didn't attend the scheduled meeting, and the PHA sent them a letter requesting their attendance at a briefing scheduled for the following month. The PHA also requested that they bring their daughter to the briefing since she'd be turning 18 that month. They subsequently attended the briefing, but without their daughter.
The PHA nevertheless gave the family a housing voucher, but notified them that the voucher wouldn't be approved for process until the daughter attended a briefing. The father then submitted a letter asking the PHA to allow his daughter to attend a specially scheduled briefing after she finished school so that she wouldn't miss any class time. She was a high school senior, and the father expressed concern that if she missed any class time she might fall behind or jeopardize her chances of getting a college scholarship.
The PHA explained that it had made special accommodations for individuals in the past, but that it couldn't make such an accommodation merely based on a student's class attendance. The PHA sent a letter notifying the family of the next briefing. The letter further stated that the PHA had scheduled the daughter to attend the briefing far enough in advance to give the family as much lead time as possible. Ten minutes before the meeting, the parents notified the administrators that they wouldn't be attending the briefing because the father had been hospitalized. The coordinator agreed to reschedule a briefing meeting for them, but stated that she required them to provide her with proof that he had been in the hospital. They never provided such proof.
The PHA then notified the family that their housing voucher had expired and that their file had been closed because all household members age 18 and older had failed to attend a briefing meeting before the expiration date.
The family filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The family accused the PHA of housing discrimination for failing to accommodate their daughter's learning disorder by refusing to schedule a special briefing for her outside of school hours and for failing to accommodate the father's physical disabilities. The department conducted an investigation and afterwards dismissed their complaint for lack of substantial evidence. The family appealed.
Ruling: An Illinois appeals court agreed with the department's decision.
Reasoning: The father claimed that he suffered from congestive heart failure, seizure disorder, and cluster headaches, and that he was receiving Social Security benefits as a result of these disabilities. But the court concluded that his alleged disabilities weren't relevant to the course of events that led to the expiration of the housing voucher, because he satisfied his personal obligations by actually appearing at the briefing meeting. His appearance at the meeting established that he didn't require a reasonable accommodation in order to obtain the housing voucher. Therefore, the PHA couldn't have failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation in this regard.
In relation to the daughter's alleged learning disability, no evidence was presented that the PHA knew or reasonably should have known of the daughter's alleged learning disability during the relevant time period. The record indicates that the parents didn't provide the PHA with any information concerning their daughter's alleged learning disability during the relevant time period prior to the expiration of the housing voucher. Their request to schedule a special briefing for their daughter outside of school hours wasn't based on her alleged learning disability, but rather on their concerns that if she missed any class time she might fall behind and jeopardize her chances of obtaining a college scholarship.
- Hughes v. Illinois Department of Human Rights, December 2011