Resident Didn't Present Enough Facts in Discrimination Lawsuit
Facts: A resident of Iranian national origin filed a discrimination lawsuit against the local PHA and its employees. The resident represented herself and filed the lawsuit on her own without an attorney’s assistance. In her lawsuit, she complained that the PHA: (1) took too long to turn off a smoke detector after she had set it off by burning toast; (2) caused her daughter’s depression, because her daughter disliked the apartment; (3) didn’t provide her with a free Thanksgiving turkey; (4) didn’t adequately cut her lawn; (5) didn’t repair her apartment; (6) provided a community area that she didn’t find enjoyable to use; and (7) didn’t provide sufficient parking spaces.
The lack of adequate parking allegedly led the resident to park her car in front of the residence of her neighbor, who then was involved in a car accident with her. As a result of the accident, the police asked the resident for her driver’s license and proof of insurance and gave her a ticket.
The resident’s complaint also claimed that the PHA employees committed various wrongs against her, including manipulating her into signing a form related to the Internal Revenue Service and obtaining her signature on an unidentified document under unidentified false pretenses. She also claimed employees caused her to not pay her rent and other bills on time.
The resident sought to submit a complaint against an employee, and she claimed the complaint led to the employee harassing her by, among other things, making an obscene gesture to the resident; controlling her television using an application on his phone; removing a safety latch from her residence; directing her to remove her car from a handicap spot; and passing unidentified “potentially damaging” information to the Social Security Administration.
The resident filed multiple administrative and judicial complaints regarding these allegations, including complaints in the Supreme Court of New York, HUD, and the New York State Division of Human Rights.
Ruling: The District Court for the Eastern District of New York gave the resident 14 days to file an amended complaint with the necessary facts.
Reasoning: Because the resident filed the lawsuit on her own, the court applied less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. In this case, with respect to her Fair Housing Act (FHA) discrimination claim, the resident must allege facts showing that the PHA and its employees discriminated against her in the terms, conditions, or privileges of her lease of her apartment, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with her apartment, because of her national origin. Merely alleging that they haven’t repaired her apartment and that she is of Iranian national origin is insufficient under the FHA.
With respect to the resident’s FHA retaliation claim, the court stated that it isn’t enough to simply allege that she has complained about discrimination. Her amended complaint must allege facts tending to show that the PHA and its employees were aware of the complaints and that these complaints caused them to take adverse action against her.
- Tehrani v. Town of Oyster Bay Housing Authority, April 2019