Sunday, July 15, 2012

Firefighter files civil rights suit after being sued for discrimination

An Attleboro firefighter filed a 33-page federal complaint this month alleging a conspiracy by his co-workers to falsely accuse him of discrimination. The firefighter, Dennis Perkins, had been the subject of a complaint at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination brought by a black firefighter, Vincent Bailey, alleging racial discrimination. That complaint settled last year when the City of Attleboro paid Bailey $25,000 after the MCAD issued a finding of probable cause on Bailey's complaint of discrimination. The new federal complaint by Perkins names several members of the Fire Department as defendants, including former Chief Ronald Churchill, and alleges that these defendants conspired together to retaliate against and defame Perkins because he refused to support Churchill's bid to continue on as Fire Chief past his statutory retirement date. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Attorney General's Office settles housing discrimination cases in Wareham

Two landlords in Wareham recently settled claims of housing discrimination with the Attorney General's Office after they published advertisements for apartments that discouraged families with young children from applying, according to Wareham Week, an online news publication. The landlords allegedly instructed families with young children not to apply for the units because of the presence of lead paint. The landlords were reportedly required to delead their apartments, pay a $3,000 penalty to the state, and attend "fair housing" training.

Massachusetts has extraordinarily strict houding discrimination laws. The law goes beyond refusal to rent or sell. A property owner may not discourage a person from applying to rent or buy property based on such person's race, religion, gender, and certain other statuses, including family status. This means that a property owner cannot advertise an available property in a way that discourages people with children from applying or inquiring about the unit. Since many units in the state have lead paint, and a property owner is not permitted to knowingly rent or sell a property with lead paint to tenants with children under six, this means that property owners often try to discourage families with children under six from applying for units with lead paint.

Is being overweight a disability?

The Montana Supreme Court says maybe. in a 4-3 decision, the state's highest court said that obesity without a physiological cause may constitute a physical impairment under state discrimination law. The decision is significant outside of Montana because the high court issued the opinion in response to a question reported by a federal court concerning whether obesity may, by itself, qualify as a disability under the American With Disabilities Act.

The significance of the decision is that obesity has previously been considered a disability only when caused by a physiological disorder or condition. The decision may cause people who are overweight without any underlying disorder or condition to claim they are disabled if they are denied employment opportunities due to being overweight.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Transgender discrimination bill takes effect

On Sunday, Massachusetts became the 16th state in the country to make discrimination on the basis of transgender status illegal in employment, housing, education and lending. The bill was signed into law last January by Governor Deval Patrick, but did not take effect until the new fiscal year which began July 1.