Familial Status Discrimination – Part III: Potential Liability for Landlords

Author: Trina M. Clayton

There has been a marked increase in familial status suits over the past several years, with many more that settle under confidential agreements for monetary damages, making the potential for these claims quite serious.  A landlord found to be in violation of familial status housing laws could incur any number of penalties including:

  • Civil penalties of up to $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for future violations;
  • Actual damages to reimburse a tenant or prospective tenant for costs incurred because of the alleged discrimination such as paying for the tenant’s out-of-pocket expenses for finding alternative housing or rent fees associated with alternative housing;
  • Damages to compensate a tenant or prospective tenant who has suffered humiliation, mental anguish or other psychological injuries as a result of the alleged discrimination;
  • Punitive Damages; and
  • Attorney fees

A landlord may also be ordered by the court to take specific action to reverse the alleged discrimination (such as renting to a family which the landlord had initially rejected), and participate in fair housing training.

It is imperative a landlord abide by federal, state and local laws regarding Fair Housing.  For specific legal advice on familial status or other types of housing discrimination, please contact Ad Astra for guidance.

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Independent Contractor or Employee?  Better Take a Second Look

Author: Trina Clayton

On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued an opinion in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, which could change the workplace status of people across the state.  With this new ruling, the Supreme Court has clarified the standard for determining whether workers in California should be classified as employees or as independent contractors for purposes of the wage orders adopted by California’s Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”).  Most notably, IWC orders apply to issues such as overtime pay and meal and rest break requirements.

The Court’s unanimous decision in Dynamex has particular implications for members of the gig economy, such as Uber, Lyft, and Amazon, as well as members of other industries, including cannabis.

With this recent ruling, the Supreme Court essentially abandoned a standard that California courts had used for 30 years to determine employment status, based largely on how much control a business exercised over wages, hours and working conditions.  Instead, the Court in Dynamex applied the “ABC” standard (used in several other states) which sets out that a California worker is presumed to be an employee, not an independent contractor.  Workers are permitted to be classified as independent contractors only if the hiring business demonstrates that the worker in question satisfies each of three conditions:

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Forum Shopping? Even a Monkey Can Do It!

Author: Michael S. Dorsi

Attorneys often must choose where to file a lawsuit. They must estimate where the judge will be more favorable on procedure and substance, which court has more favorable procedures, and where the jury pool may be more sympathetic to the client. And readers should not be shocked  to learn that attorneys often consider the political leanings of judges.

However, forum shopping to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals can have unintended consequences. While the Ninth Circuit has a liberal reputation and has historically ruled in ways that pleased Democrats and against President Trump, it is also a large court. Six of the twenty-two active judges were appointed by George W. Bush, and another eight judges on senior status were appointed by Republican presidents. Every sitting, numerous litigants draw a panel with two or three Republican-appointed judges. Many of these Republican appointees are well-regarded by lawyers and litigants of all political stripes, but if a plaintiff’s goal is to file in the Ninth Circuit and draw a politically friendly panel, that is just bad math.

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Familial Status Discrimination – Part II: Tenancy

Author: Trina M. Clayton

It is important to understand that familial status discrimination may occur at any stage of property rental.  Our earlier blog described some of the pitfalls a landlord might run into during the pre-tenancy period.  Here, we will explore potential areas of concern during tenancy.

Examples of Familial Status Discrimination

  • Refusing to rent to families with children.
  • Charging a higher security deposit to families with children even if the family has a good rental history.
  • Increasing rent (called a “rent surcharge”) because a resident brings a child into the household.
  • Steering families with children to downstairs units, certain sections of a building, or to certain buildings or areas in a development (such as near the playground).
  • Restrictions on children’s outdoor recreation activities or use of common areas.  This could include an “adults only” pool policy or pool hours; curfew rules that target children, or general premises rules regarding adult supervision of children.
    • Examples of rules which violate the Fair Housing Act include, “children on the premises are to be supervised by a responsible adult at all times” and “persons under the age of 18 must abide by the set curfew of 10:00 P.M.”
  • No playing rules such as, “Under no circumstances may children play on stairwells, walkways, or carports. Under no circumstances may children[s’] toys or vehicles be used in the above areas or in pool area.”

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