Circuit 11: Allegations of Sexual Harassment May Lead to Fair Housing Act Prosecutions | Weiner Brodsky Kider PC

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An Eleventh Circuit panel recently ruled that complaints of sexual harassment could give rise to action as sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, where the complainant can show that she would not have been a victim of harassment without their gender.

The appellant alleged that her property manager wrongly evicted her after she ended their sexual relationship, which began when the property manager offered to rent the apartment to the appellant in exchange for a kiss. The district court dismissed the appellant’s complaint, arguing that despite the sufficiency of the allegations and legal precedents in other circuits, the plain language of the Fair Housing Act does not provide a cause for action for sexual harassment.

The Eleventh Circuit overturned the district court’s decision and joined with the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits in recognizing sexual harassment as discrimination based on sex in violation of the Fair Housing Act. In reaching its decision, the panel looked at interpretations of Title VII, which uses language similar to that of the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination “on the basis” of a claimant’s sex. The Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit have each previously held that in the context of Title VII, “because of” denotes “without” causation; that is, if the harassment would not have taken place without the sex of the claimant, it is actionable sex discrimination. The Eleventh Circuit panel applied this interpretation to the Fair Housing Act, finding that sexual harassment, which includes both a hostile housing environment and harassment in return, is prosecutable under the Fair Housing Act. fair accommodation, where the applicant can demonstrate that it would not have taken place but for the sex of the applicant.

The case was sent back to the district court to determine whether the appellant’s complaint adequately alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.

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