Our Cleveland employment lawyer blog is taking a rare detour this week to address discrimination of another sort. Today, the Justice Department announced it has reached an $850,000 settlement in a race discrimination in housing lawsuit against the owners of several Massillon apartment complexes.
When most people think of discrimination laws, they think of employment discrimination. However, both Ohio and federal law prohibit discrimination in housing as well. Landlords may not discriminate in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. While ordinarily we handle employment discrimination cases in Cleveland and the surrounding counties, earlier this year, we won a landmark Cuyahoga County discrimination case involving the rights of individuals with mental health conditions under the Fair Housing Act, which we wrote about here.
In 2011, the Justice Department sued John and Mary Ruth, owners of several Massillon area apartment complexes, under the federal Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit accused the Ruths of discriminating against African American tenants and applicants, and against tenants and applicants with children. In fact, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, their former employees testified that they were told to discriminate against African Americans and families with children. The Justice Department filed suit in Akron federal court, and today it announced the settlement.
The terms of the settlement as reported include $650,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs, $175,000 in damages to former residents, and $25,000 in penalties to the United States government. The settlement also requires the Ruths to hire an outside company to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act, to receiving additional training on housing discrimination, and to report on compliance with the settlement to the Justice Department for three years. The settlement must still be approved by the Court.
This is typically a Cleveland employment lawyer blog. However, today’s settlement is too significant not to mention. Whether in the workplace or at home, people are entitled to be free of race discrimination. Today’s announcement serves as a strong, and sometimes necessary, reminder.