Fair housing and fair employment complaints are both up in Fort Worth by more than 20 percent over fiscal 2013, potentially because of more awareness and an improving economy.
Angela Rush, administrator for the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, said housing complaints probably increased so dramatically — 20.5 percent — because of increased outreach and awareness of fair housing. She spoke after a presentation to the commission Tuesday.
“We did a lot of effort in housing to figure out where we were receiving complaints and referrals from, so I think the increase in housing complaints probably has a lot to with targeted outreach,” Rush said.
The fair employment cases, however, which increased 28.5 percent over fiscal 2013, might result from the strengthening economy. The city’s fiscal years end on Sept. 30.
“One thing people are talking about is as the economy is improving, more people are not as afraid to file a complaint,” she said. “Before, they needed the job so badly that they might put up with whatever the condition was. As the economy is improving, they realize that they are not willing to continue to be treated that way.”
The classes protected under federal fair housing and employment laws are race, disability, national origin, gender, family status, religion, color and retaliation. Fort Worth takes those a few steps further and adds sexual orientation, transgender, gender identity and gender expression to the protected classes.
There were 270 fair housing complaints filed in Fort Worth in fiscal 2014, compared with 224 complaints in 2013.
Nearly 50 percent of the 2014 complaints were based on disabilities; the next-largest group of complaints concerned race, 33 percent, and national origin, 11 percent. Complaints can be based on more than one category.
Of the 246 cases closed in fiscal 2014, 63 percent were closed by withdrawal, monetary settlements or conciliation, a process in which the two parties negotiate and sign a HUD-witnessed agreement and the case is closed. About half of that group received a settlement; $101,000 in settlements was issued in 2014.
Just over 30 percent of complaints were found to have “no cause” during the investigation, which means there is “no reasonable cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred or is about to occur.”
One percent of cases were not settled during conciliation and were found to have cause, and 2 percent were closed because of a lack of cooperation from the complainant, lack of jurisdiction or other administraive issues.
When making the complaints, residents most often cited discriminatory terms in the rental market and failure to make reasonable accommodations.
Of the 147 employment discrimination charges filed in 2014, 30 percent were based on disabilities; 30 percent on retaliation and 24 percent each on race and sex. (Complaints could be based on more than one category.)
Eleven percent of employment cases were closed administratively; 25 percent were closed through conciliation, withdrawal or settlement, and 64 percent were found not to have cause during the investigation. Just over $200,000 was disbursed in settlements.