WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced a settlement of its lawsuit alleging that Lee Enterprises Inc. and its subsidiary, Lee Publications Inc., violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by publishing an advertisement that discriminated on the basis of familial status in the Elko Daily Free Press. The Elko Daily Free Press is a newspaper serving Elko, Nev. Lee Enterprises Inc. is a publisher of 49 daily newspapers and nearly 300 specialty publications across 23 states.
The case began when the Silver State Fair Housing Council (SSFHC) filed a fair housing complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). SSFHC alleged that in or about November 2008, the defendants published in the Elko Daily Free Press an advertisement for rental housing stating that “no kids” were permitted. After investigating, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which filed this lawsuit in November 2009.
Under this nationwide settlement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the defendants will adopt procedures to screen out discriminatory advertisements for housing from all the defendants’ publications that include advertisements for housing. The settlement requires the defendants to screen out discriminatory advertisements for housing that appear in print or that appear both in print and on any associated websites. The settlement also requires the defendants to undergo training on the requirements on the Fair Housing Act, post notices informing readers about the requirements of the FHA, provide monetary compensation to SSFHC, and make periodic reports to the government.
“The Fair Housing Act applies to all those who participate in the housing industry, including those who publish advertisements for dwellings,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement will help eliminate the atmosphere of intolerance created by discriminatory advertisements.”
“Families struggling to find suitable housing shouldn’t have their choices limited by discriminatory advertising and unlawful practices,” stated John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to taking swift enforcement action anytime a family’s right to obtain the housing of their choice is illegally denied.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743) or email the Justice Department at email@example.com (link sends e-mail). Such persons may also contact the HUD at 1-800-669-9777.
Fair housing enforcement is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt.