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On May 7, Jenner & Block Partner Devi M. Rao and Associate Emily S. Mannheimer filed an amicus brief on behalf of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the New York Civil Liberties Union, National Women’s Law Center and 49 additional organizations committed to gender justice.
The case, Francis v. Kings Park Manor, involves whether or not a housing provider is obligated under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to address tenant-on-tenant harassment if the provider had known about discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it. A Second Circuit panel held that an African-American tenant plausibly alleged that his landlord had discriminated against him under the FHA by failing to address severe race-based harassment by another tenant.
The brief addressed the consequences that the Second Circuit’s decision will have for tenants’ housing protections; particularly, for women facing sexual harassment. Citing testimonies of women involved in sexual harassment cases, the brief observed that this widespread problem jeopardizes individuals’ access to a safe and stable home. The brief noted how intersecting forms of harassment, which are “based on multiple aspects of a person’s identity, such as race, national origin, religion and disability” pose significant concerns for women tenants, who have often indicated that “they wereharassed precisely because of their race and stereotypes about women of color.” It also explained that housing providers are empowered to take reasonable steps to address tenant-on-tenant harassment in accordance with the FHA and the First Amendment.
The Francis case is currently before the Second Circuit en banc. The court will hear oral arguments in September 2020.