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Fair Employment and Housing Act

DEFINITION

California fair housing act that prohibits discrimination in housing and employer hiring practices.

EXPLANATION

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act was enacted in 1959 to prohibit employers from discriminating in their hiring and employment practices.

The act’s main provision goes as follows:

“It is hereby declared as the public policy of this state that it is necessary to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination or abridgment on account of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status.” (Government Code §§12920)

Specific Provisions of the Act

The Act was created to protect victims from employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies. It specifically targets employer violations and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees.

The law also strengthens sexual harassment protocols. Sexual harassment is the offensive, unwarranted sexual advance, action, or language that violates one or more parties.

If the rights of a party have been violated, he or she must file a formal complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the violation. If a lawsuit ensues, the violating party will be required to pay the violated party’s attorney fees and other related legal expenses.

Expansion of the Original California Fair Employment and Housing Act by Governor Schwartzenegger

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits the use of discrimination as a method of choosing or not choosing tenants the right to lease a property. The California Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006, was created to strengthen the already created California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). One of the main reasons this act was passed was to address the growing concern that landlords would not rent to parties that relied on public assistance income as a means to pay for rent.

Case Law as it Pertains to the California Fair Employment and Housing Opportunity Act

Case Review: Giebeler v. M & B Associates (2003)

The case, Giebeler v. M & B Associates (2003) 343 F.3d 1143., featured an HIV-positive tenant who was denied tenancy in a building.

The tenant, Giebeler, worked as a technician and earned about $36,000. When he was diagnosed as HIV positive, Giebeler could no longer work. He was forced to rely on social security and housing income from an AIDS fund.

When Giebeler applied for tenancy in a building, the landlord denied his application on the grounds that he did not qualify for the income requirement. Giebeler had his mother — who had significant income and a perfect credit history — co-sign on the application and re-submitted it to the landlord. The landlord denied that application as well, indicating that he did not allow co-signers.

Upon getting the second application denial, Giebeler contacted the AIDS Legal Services for help with the alleged unfair application denial. The organization drafted a letter to the landlord, contending that the landlord was legally required to make reasonable accommodations for Giebeler’s disability (in this case, by waiving his no co-signers policy). The landlord did not change his decision.

In response, Giebeler filed an action with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). He argued that the landlord had employed intentional discrimination against him by failing to reasonably accommodate his disability.

The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the landlord. Giebeler appealed and the Court of Appeals ruled in his favor. The appellate court held that HIV qualifies as a physical impairment for the purposes of the Fair Housing Amendments Act. Therefore, the landlord was required to reasonably accommodate Giebeler by allowing him to use a co-signer, as such an accommodation did not place an undue hardship on the landlord. Consequently, the landlord was required to lease a unit to Giebeler.

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