Law expands protected class to veterans and adds right to retaliation claim for any fair housing proceeding
Yesterday, the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Human Relations approved an amendment to the Chicago Fair Housing and Human Rights Ordinance proposed by Mayor Emanuel making military status a protected class. The intent of the amendment is to prohibit discrimination against members of the military in housing and employment. The text of the original amendment as proposed can be found on the website of the City Clerk. Based upon reports from the Chicago Sun Times, there were changes made to the original amendment before it was approved but those are not yet available online.
Currently, the ordinance, at section 5-8-020, prohibits discrimination in housing based upon the following protected classes: race, color, sex, gender, identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, military discharge status or source of income. The amendment would change military discharge status to military status. The amendment defines military status as (1) being on active duty in or in any reserve component of any branch of the armed forces of the United States, the State of Illinois, or any other state; (2) being a veteran of any such branch of the armed forces; or (3) the fact of discharge from military status any such branch of the armed forces and the reasons for such discharge.
I doubt you would find many people who would object to expanding protections to military veterans. However, of equal importance to the change in protected class status of veterans was a new provision in the ordinance prohibiting landlords from retaliating against individuals who bring fair housing complaints against their landlord. This provision is not just about veterans. It is about all of the protected classes. The ordinance adds new section 5-8-025 which provides:
5-8-025 Retaliation – Prohibited. No person shall retaliate against any individual because that individual in good faith has made a charge, testified, assisted or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under this chapter.
This will make it illegal for a landlord or a landlord’s agent to take any adverse action against a party making a housing discrimination complaint. Unfortunately, it is fair to predict that “bad” tenants will have reason to file discrimination complaints in an effort to confuse issues in eviction cases. When a tenant senses that their rental situation is taking a turn for the worse, tenants who want to abuse the system will file a fair housing complaint to make it harder for the landlord to evict them.
The Sun Times notes that Alderman Hopkins from the Second Ward shares that concern. He is quoted in the article as saying: “People who have the skill of being able to move from rental unit to rental unit — they know where the loopholes are. They know how to play the game. They know how to run the clock. It’s to their advantage. And this is one more tool that they will be able to use to stay in a place where they’re not paying rent, causing harm to those Moms and Pops we want to protect — whether they own a condo in a Lincoln Park high-rise or a two-flat.”
The Sun Times goes on to note that Alderman Hopkins was successful in lobbying to add language to the amendment clarifying that any fair housing discrimination complaint will not impede eviction cases proceeding based on non-payment of rent. You can read the statement in support of the ordinance released by Mona Noriega, the Chair and Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Rights.
Stay tuned for more on this issue as it develops.