New Fair Housing Lawsuit Filed Against MSU Sorority

Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan
PO Box 7825, Ann Arbor, MI  48107   (877) 979-FAIR       www.fhcmichigan.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 3rd, 2018

Media Contacts: Pam Kisch, (877) 979-3247; Attorney Kerry L. Morgan, (734) 281-7100
A copy of the filed complaint is available upon request.

New Fair Housing Lawsuit Filed Against MSU Sorority

Kayla Hicks is suing Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) for denying her the right to live in the sorority with an emotional support animal (ESA) while she was a student at Michigan State University.

According to the complaint taken by the Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan in the fall of 2017, though her need for the animal was well documented, AOII refused to allow her to bring her emotional support animal, a two-pound Netherland Dwarf Rabbit named Sebastian, to the sorority. Ms. Hicks was in close communication with the national offices of the sorority during the summer of 2017. She provided the organization with proof that she had a disability and needed the ESA.

On September 1, 2017, after MSU classes began and Ms. Hicks had already moved into the sorority house for her senior year, Mandy Doyle, Director of Properties at the national headquarters in Tennessee, sent an email stating:

“Hi Kayla, The decision is based upon our global policy created by AOII Properties to not allow emotional support animals. It is in AOII Properties good faith belief that the chapter house falls under the private club exemption as in the Fair Housing Act that you have mentioned in your email below. Thank you, Mandy”

“Kayla Hicks provided the sorority with all the documents necessary to show that she had a disability and needed an emotional support animal, yet they still denied her request,” stated Niki Green, Coordinator of Investigations and Legal Research from the Fair Housing Center.

Discrimination is defined in the Fair Housing Amendments Act to include refusing “to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services” when necessary to afford such person with a disability an “equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

In March of 2018, the national office of the sorority demanded that Ms. Hicks drop the complaint that she had filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (in conjunction with her complaint to the FHC) before they discuss any possible agreement to allow the ESA. Two days later, before she could even consider the offer, local AOII staff said she would be evicted from the house. After the eviction threat, Ms. Hicks moved out of the sorority. The Fair Housing Center referred her to an attorney for litigation.

Fair Housing Center Cooperating Attorney Kerry L. Morgan of Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak filed the fair housing complaint in U.S. Federal Court on November 14, 2018. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Robert J. Jonker.

Photographs: Sebastian and Kayla Hicks. Photographs provided by Kayla Hicks.

  

The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan, founded in 1992, actively protects the civil rights of those who are discriminated against in the rental, sale, or financing of housing through investigation, education, advocacy, and legal action. The FHC takes an average of 160 complaints each year from its eight-county service area – Ingham, Clinton, Eaton, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, and Washtenaw counties.

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication.  Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

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FHC Internship Fund

FHC Internship Fund

We are excited to announce our 2018 #GivingTuesday campaign: an FHC Internship Fund! Our goal is to raise $2,000 between now and November 27th. Donate Here.

Interns learn to answer phones, provide referrals and advice, take complaints, and work on special projects. We could truly use office help right now. Help us train the next generation of fair housing advocates!

#GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in countries around the world. Millions of people have come together to support and champion the causes they believe in and the communities in which they live.

We hope you can give today.

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Black Men Read & The Fair Housing Five

Black Men Read Kid’s Club

We are excited to partner with Black Men Read, a community reading series focused on sharing the stories of Black people with local youth. Guest reader Alex Thomas will be reading The Fair Housing Five and The Haunted House at the Superior Township Library, located at 8795 MacArthur Blvd. in Ypsilanti, on Saturday, December 1st at 11 AM. All are welcome; we hope you will join us.

The Fair Housing Five is an illustrated children’s book that tells the story of five children that take action in response to a landlord who is discriminating in their neighborhood.

This book is designed to initiate conversations about housing discrimination, systemic inequality, and the important role that we all have in ending both. We also hope the book will empower youth and adults alike to advocate for justice and create positive change in their communities.

The mission of Black Men Read states: “We promote the power of stories, storytelling and literacy to normalize the historical and cultural contributions of Black people through stories while uplifting Black men all of the ways that they engage in their families and communities.”

This event is a partnership with Black Men Read and the Ypsilanti District Library.

      

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Attorney and Criminal Background Trainings Funded by United Way

The Fair Housing Center has received two new grants from the United Way.

The first grant is from the United Way of Lenawee/Monroe Counties in support of our Fair Policy, Fair Chance program. With these funds we will conduct community-based education sessions on the topic of criminal background and housing rights in Lenawee County.

The second, from the United Way of Washtenaw County, is a grant which will allow us to organize and hold a Cooperating Attorney training session. When our office uncovers evidence of illegal housing discrimination through investigations, testing, and research, we may offer complainants the opportunity to work with a cooperating attorney to file a case in state or federal court. Historically, relief gained from successful litigation has the biggest impact on ending future illegal practices.

Fair housing law is a specialized area of civil rights law. If you are an attorney interested in attending our training event and learning more about litigating these cases, please contact Pam at 877-979-3247.

Thank you to the Monroe/Lenawee and Washtenaw County United Way for granting funds to these programs. Together, we can make a bigger difference in our communities.

 

 

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HUD Files Fair Housing Complaint Against Facebook

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a complaint on 8/13/2018 against Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act. Read HUD’s complaint against Facebook.

According to the press release, HUD claims that Facebook enables advertisers to control which users receive housing-related ads based upon the recipient’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, and/or zip code. Facebook then allegedly invites advertisers to express unlawful preferences by offering discriminatory options, allowing them to effectively limit housing options for these protected classes under the guise of “targeted advertising.”

HUD alleges that Facebook allows advertisers to, among other things:

  • show housing ads either only to men or women;
  • not show ads to Facebook users interested in an “assistance dog,” “mobility scooter,” “accessibility” or “deaf culture”;
  • not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in “child care” or “parenting,” or show ads only to users with children above a specified age;
  • to show/not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in a particular place of worship, religion or tenet, such as the “Christian Church,” “Sikhism,” “Hinduism,” or the “Bible.”
  • not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in “Latin America,” “Southeast Asia,” “China,” “Honduras,” or “Somalia.”
  • draw a red line around majority-minority zip codes and then not show ads to Facebook users who live in specific zip codes.

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