Justice ministry resolves racial discrimination case

Justice Department resolves racial discrimination lawsuit against Oklahoma Housing Authority

(STL.News) The Justice Department today announced that it has secured a settlement agreement with the Housing Authority in the city of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, and two of its former employees to resolve allegations that they violated federal law by denying 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 are required to pay $ 75,000 in damages and take other steps to address their violations of the Fair Housing Act and Civil Rights Title VI. Act of 1964.

“Housing authorities are entrusted with taxpayer dollars to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “It is odious that a housing authority denies accommodation to any applicant on the basis of their race. The Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing federal law to ensure that no one is illegally denied housing because of their race or for any other prohibited reason.

“The days of racial discrimination in housing should be long behind us,” said Demetria McCain, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) senior assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “HUD is pleased that the Department of Justice and HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative partner, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, have taken the appropriate steps to end the illegal behavior of the Housing Authority. “

Under the consent decree, which was approved by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, the defendants will pay a total of $ 65,000 to the plaintiff and her child, and $ 10,000. to Oklahoma Legal Aid Services Inc., whose Fair Housing tests revealed discriminatory behavior from the Housing Authority. In addition, the consent decree requires that employees and members of the Board of Directors of the Housing Authority undergo training on the Fair Housing Act and Title VI, carry out non-discriminatory procedures and submit compliance and reporting requirements.

The US lawsuit, filed in December 2020, alleged that Housing Authority employees told a Legal Aid employee who contacted them on behalf of the applicant that housing was available and invited her to apply. . But when the Housing Authority learned of her application that she and her child were black, the Housing Authority rejected the application and falsely told the applicant that no apartments were available. Legal Aid then carried out tests, which confirmed that the Housing Authority discriminated against black applicants. As the US lawsuit claimed, the Housing Authority told a white tester that there were multiple apartments available for her and her daughter and showed her three vacant apartments. In 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 case to the Department of Justice.

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