February 2011 Coach's Quiz
We have given you eight rules to help you prevent fair housing complaints based on first impressions. Now let's look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the COACH's Quiz to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, (1) b, (2) a, and so on.
And this month, there's an extra credit assignment: Judge for Yourself, a description of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court's ruling to see how much you have learned.
The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
You overhear a leasing consultant saying that, because of the 9/11 attacks and ongoing reports about terrorism, he doesn't trust Middle Eastern or Muslim men. Could the leasing consultant's comments lead to a fair housing complaint?
No, since everyone is entitled to their own personal opinions and beliefs.
Yes, since his personal opinions could affect his attitude or behavior toward anyone who looks or sounds like they may be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.
An Hispanic man enters the leasing office near the end of the day, when all the other leasing consultants have left for the day. He tells the female leasing consultant, who is also Hispanic, that she reminds him of his former girlfriend and asks to see an available unit. She feels uncomfortable with his attentions and asks him to return for a showing the next day. Could the incident lead to a fair housing complaint?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
A woman and her boyfriend met with the owner of a rental home. After a showing, the couple gave the owner a check as a security deposit. Apparently very unhappy with their current living arrangements, the couple told family and friends about the imminent move to the new home, which had a lower rent than their present accommodations.
A few days later, the owner called and left a message on the answering machine at the boyfriend's workplace. Upon receiving the message, the boyfriend played it on speakerphone while one of his employees and his girlfriend were in the room. In the message, the owner allegedly said that he rented the unit to another couple and that the girlfriend, who has a tattoo on her ankle, was an unacceptable tenant because “men wear tattoos different but when women do it, it could be an indication of not as high standards per se.” In addition, he allegedly made reference to a previous bad experience with a woman with a tattoo.
The girlfriend ran from the room crying. When the boyfriend called back and asked why he left the message, the owner allegedly said he thought he was helping the boyfriend in the long run.
Could the owner be liable for damages based on a federal fair housing violation?
Coach's Answers & Explanations
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #2 & #4 apply here:
Rule #2: Tell Employees to Leave Personal Biases at the Door
Rule #4: Warn Against Making Stray Comments
Although everyone has the right to have their own personal beliefs and opinions, a leasing consultant's personal prejudice against Muslim or Middle Eastern men could lead to a perception of bias—if not outright discrimination—based on religion or national origin.
Correct answer: a
Reason: Rule #6 applies here:
Rule #6: Avoid Pitfalls When Showing Apartments
Although it's possible that the incident could lead to a fair housing complaint, you should have policies and procedures in place on what the leasing consultant should do when faced with circumstances such as these. Fair housing law does not dictate whether and under what circumstances your community may conduct showings, but it's a good idea to require leasing consultants to report and document any time they don't conduct a showing. For example, a written explanation from the leasing consultant detailing what happened—and why she asked the prospect to return the next day—would document a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the leasing consultant's conduct and demonstrate that, since he was offered another opportunity for a showing at a later time.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
Yes, according to a 2002 ruling by a federal court in California.
The couple filed a federal fair housing complaint, alleging discrimination based on sex. Since the owner did not appear to defend himself, the court assumed that all the allegations in the couple's complaint were true and entered a default judgment that he violated federal fair housing law.
After a hearing, the court ruled that the couple was entitled to more than $30,000 in damages. In addition to being forced to pay the higher rent by staying at their current accommodations, the couple proved that they suffered humiliation and mental anguish because of the owner's comments. The court awarded $12,000 in compensatory damages to the woman and $3,000 to the boyfriend. In addition, the court awarded the couple $10,000 in punitive damages, ruling that the owner's conduct was reckless and in blatant disregard of the couple's rights [Mairs v. Gilbreath, October 2002].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|When First Impressions Don't Count: Avoiding Discrimination Based on Appearance and Speech|