Justice Department Resolves Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Justice Department Resolves Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Housing Authority in Oklahoma

(STL.News) The Justice Department announced today that it has obtained a settlement agreement with the Housing Authority of the Town of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, and two of its former employees to resolve allegations that they violated federal law when they denied housing to a Black mother and her young daughter because of their race.  Under the settlement, the Housing Authority and former employees David Haynes and Myra Hess must pay $75,000 in damages and take other actions to remedy their violations of the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Housing authorities are entrusted with tax-payer dollars to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “It is abhorrent that a housing authority would deny a home to any applicant on the basis of race.  The Justice Department is committed to vigorous enforcement of federal law to ensure that no one is unlawfully denied housing because of race or for any other prohibited reason.”

“The time for racial discrimination in housing should be far behind us,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  “HUD is pleased the Department of Justice and HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative partner, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, took appropriate action to put a halt to the housing authority’s unlawful behavior.”

Under the consent decree, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, the defendants will pay a total of $65,000 to the applicant and her child, and $10,000 to the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc., whose fair housing testing exposed the Housing Authority’s discriminatory conduct.  In addition, the consent decree requires the Housing Authority employees and board members to undergo training on the Fair Housing Act and Title VI, implement nondiscriminatory procedures and submit to compliance and reporting requirements.

The United States’ lawsuit, filed in December 2020, alleged that the Housing Authority employees told a Legal Aid employee who contacted them on behalf of the applicant that units were available and invited her to apply.  But when the Housing Authority learned from her application that she and her child were Black, the Housing Authority denied the application and falsely told the applicant that no apartments were available.  Legal Aid then conducted testing, which confirmed that the Housing Authority was discriminating against Black applicants.  As the United States’ lawsuit alleged, the Housing Authority told a white tester that there were multiple apartments available to her and her daughter and showed her three vacant apartments.  By contrast, the next day, the Housing Authority told a Black tester that no apartments were available for her and her granddaughter and did not show her an apartment.  The Housing Authority receives funds from HUD and manages 25 apartments.

The applicant and Legal Aid subsequently filed a complaint with HUD.  After an investigation, HUD determined that the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act and Title VI and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

SOURCE: USDOJ.Today