Disparate Impact, Algorithmic Bias and Fair Housing.

In the multifamily industry, we have all received an ample amount of Fair Housing Training. We have secret shops and surveys. Apartment associations even provide in-person and virtual training at training centers, like the ones we’ve provided across the Carolinas to train every management team member on Fair Housing and how ignoring its precepts can impact us all. But what if a Fair Housing violation slipped under the radar? What if you didn’t know it even existed? How could you plan for it or prepare your staff? You can’t. Managing Principal and Founder Chris Loebsack sat down with Manager of Digital Media Liz Newkirk to discuss disparate impact, algorithms, and their impact on providing Fair Housing. Visit our YouTube to listen in on the full discussion. 

 

What is Disparate Impact?

According to NationalFairHousingOrg. Disparate Impact is a legal doctrine under the Fair Housing Act which states that a policy may be considered discriminatory if it has a disproportionate “adverse impact” against any group based on the seven protected classes when there is no legitimate, non-discriminatory business need for the policy.

What are some examples of Disparate Impact in housing?

  • Only allowing people who are able to prove they work a full-time job to apply. This discriminates against people with disabilities and veterans who may not be able to work full-time but can afford the apartment.
  • Rejecting tenants on the basis of criminal history, particularly without explanation.
  • Zoning restrictions that eliminate affordable housing in a certain area.

Often the third-party software and market data that we use can assist us in creating policies or help adopt practices like the ones mentioned above that disproportionately impact marginalized groups – the BIPOC community and those in the seven protected classes. Take accepting a tenant based on criminal history, for an example. We know that the BIPOC community is convicted at a higher rate than the majority, and while landlords have the responsibility to keep tenants safe, having a blanket rejection based on criminal history has a direct effect on the BIPOC community and inclusive housing. The opportunity to live on your property and provide a safe community for them and/or their families are removed.

In October of 2020, HUD implemented a new rule which added to this already complex situation, moving the burden of proof to the plaintiff in disparate impact cases. Under this new rule, the plaintiff(s)  “are required to show significant evidence in order for their claim to be sustained. The evidence includes proof that the policy in question is both arbitrary and unnecessary for doing business.” This new rule provides a level of complexity that we do not advise you to navigate by yourself. We advise you to seek legal counsel and we encourage you to use this as an opportunity to reach out to your Employee Resource Group or DE&I team to ensure that the policies you create do not disproportionately impact marginalized communities.

How can your ERG (Employee Resource Group) or DE&I council help?

Two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two. Those heads are even better than they come from different backgrounds, religions, abilities, incomes, and perspectives. When you use your ERG or DE&I councils, you can potentially avoid discriminatory practices making their way into your policies and procedures for your property. However, they can’t do all the heavy lifting. Cultural, unconscious and implicit bias training are great ways to educate teams on the property and in the C-suite. This can also help you avoid legal ramifications altogether. They can test biased technology, collect data, and examine change over time. Studies show that Executive leadership teams are 21% more likely to be profitable and 27% better at creating value when implementing this type of training, according to McKinsey & Company.

We hope that this blog and Q&A help you understand the complexities of disparate impact, and hopefully encourage you to get started with the creation of incorporating DE&I practices into your organization.

SC: In-Person Proceedings in the Summary Courts to Resume March 15, 2021

SC: In-Person Proceedings in the Summary Courts to Resume March 15, 2021

The Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an Order on February 26, 2021, which stated that in-person hearings can resume beginning Monday, March 15, 2021. There was nothing in the Order itself that mandates, nor discourages, the state’s courts from conducting hearings virtually (i.e. Zoom, WebEx, or Teleconference), as some have done for the past several months. So, while some Courts may resume in-person hearings and others may continue to conduct proceedings virtually, this Order makes it clear that all Courts within SC should resume conducting/scheduling hearings in some fashion no later than March 15, 2021.

Our team will keep you posted on a case-by-case basis on what your court decides to do. Of course, if you have a question about a specific case, you can contact your team via our contact form choosing the “Case Update” option from the dropdown.

 

Ways to celebrate Black History Month at work

Ways to celebrate Black History Month at work

Black History month is commonly celebrated in our youth. In school, we learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. We learn about Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus, and how she helped continue the conversation about racial injustice. We may even learn about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, and its “freeing” of slaves. However, Black History Month is very rarely celebrated in the workplace. And no, we’re not talking about giving Black employees a day off.

There are many ways to celebrate Black History Month in a professional setting. If you have a DE&I program at work, you can connect with the leaders of that program and find ways of ensuring that your employees in the BIPOC community feel included, seen, and their voices heard. If you don’t have a DE&I program, this is a great time to start! This is one of the many ways you can celebrate Black History Month beyond the month of February. We’ve listed a few more ways you can celebrate Black leaders and create an inclusive environment below.

1.) Remove. Connect with your HR team and DE&I professionals and find a way to set the standard to eradicate conscious and unconscious bias. This ensures that employees of all backgrounds and races have continuous equity.

2.) Educate. Bring in speakers, create a book club, or have a round-table discussion about topics that affect your BIPOC employees. Find ways to navigate topics such as why Black women can’t be introverts, discrimination about hair and its texture, and read books like “The Fire This Time” by Jesmyn Ward.

3.) Inclusion. Teams with inclusive cultures outperform their peers by 80% according to Deloitte. Understand that events that happen outside of the workplace affect your employees, and it’s always a great idea to know HOW those events may affect them. Seek out different perspectives and opinions, and reach out to Black leaders in your organization, and ask how they would like to be elevated.

These are just a few ways that you can celebrate Black History Month beyond the month of February. Remember, Black history IS American history and should be celebrated 365 days of the year.

 

More Than 28

More Than 28

In a “60 Minutes” interview Morgan Freeman said, ” You’re going to relegate my history to a month?  I don’t want a Black history month. Black history IS American  history.” The then 79-year old Oscar-winning actor received quite a bit of criticism for this remark. But does he have a point? Let’s look back, to move forward.

The “Father of Black History Month,” historian and Harvard-trained Carter G. Woodson, and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) on September 9, 1915, in Chicago, Illinois. This group sponsored National Negro History week in 1926, which coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, and became increasingly recognized in part due to the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. With the stroke of a pen, then-President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976 and called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

When asked, Woodson explained why Black history is so important.  He said, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Woodson noticed that Black people were often purposely underrepresented in schools also misrepresented in history books.   He spent his entire career ensuring not only that African-American history would be taught, studied, and discussed, but he also hoped through his efforts that Black history and American history would one day be inherent to each other. The goal was to never minimize the contribution of Black Americans down to a month. It was a line item of a bigger conversation, that Black history IS American history and that Black Americans, with their struggles, cultures, traditions, and wins, should be celebrated with the same intensity and integrity that we celebrate everything else.

We must move past the celebration and the recognition of mediocrity; we must advance in having deeper conversations so that we can address the systemic issues that continue to oppress and marginalize Black people in this country. In order for unity to happen, recognition must come first, and this is beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. It’s “The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein and how he directs our attention to how the government segregated America; it’s James Baldwin and his book “The Fire Next Time,” a book that recognizes the consequences of racial injustice; and it’s Fannie Lou Hammer and her fight for voter rights and how Black men and women contribute every day just by showing up. No, Black history is more than 28 days, it’s US. All of us, and once we recognize the history of this country, no matter how painful or arduous, then and only then can unity happen. In our More Than 28 campaign, we want to educate the industries where we are a part, but the goal and the hope are that Black history and its people will be recognized and be given equity 365 days of the year. 

 

Mecklenburg County Courts Closing Jan 19 – Feb 11

Mecklenburg County Courts Closing Jan 19 – Feb 11

North Carolina: For all of our Mecklenburg County clients, we hate to have to share this news, but based on the Mecklenburg County Public Health Directive that came out last night, the Chief District Court Judge has decided that all eviction hearings in Mecklenburg County scheduled between Tuesday, January 19 and Thursday, February 11 will be continued and rescheduled.

As soon as we have new court dates, we will update Nationwide Eviction so that you may see them.

NOTE:  All cases scheduled for Friday, January 15 should proceed as scheduled unless you hear otherwise.

If you have any questions, please visit our contact form.

Winter Weather Alert

Winter Weather Alert

We are anticipating inclement weather over the next day or so and some of our NC/SC offices and team members may be affected. We will still be working as efficiently as possible, but response times may be delayed if any of our team members or offices lose power.

Please stay safe and if you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out via our contact form: https://loebsackbrownlee.com/contact-us being sure to choose the best option from the dropdown menu.