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April 30, 1996

MBI Housing Discrimination Update

by Edmund Tsang

On April 17, the U.S. magistrate judge presiding in the housing discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee of Mitchell Brothers, Inc. (MBI) overturned his earlier decision to limit plaintiff's discovery. The plaintiff, who managed an apartment complex for MBI between 1993 and 1995, claims she was fired by MBI officials for refusing to practice housing discrimination. [See "MBI Faces A Third Housing Discrimination Lawsuit While Near Settlement In Another," Harbinger XIV, #13, April 9-29, 1996.]

In the motion to reconsider, attorney for the plaintiff stated that "[A]s part of her case Plaintiff will be obligated to first establish that there was a practice of discrimination conducted by Defendants, which violated the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, and further, must prove that when she opposed these practices, Plaintiff was terminated from her employment. Thus, Plaintiff will be obligated to offer proof on the widespread discrimination as well as proof of how this discrimination, and her opposition to it, directed affected her." In petitioning the court to reconsider its earlier decision to limit discovery, plaintiff's attorney stated in court papers that "It is Plaintiff's position that the discovery sought is necessary because there has been no meaningful disclosure by Defendants, particularly on the issue of the existence of housing discrimination."

In his ruling on April 17, the presiding U.S. magistrate judge wrote: "After carefully considering the motion to reconsider and the entire file, it is determined that the motion is due to be granted."

MBI faces two additional lawsuits related to alleged discriminatory housing practices. In one lawsuit, filed in August, 1995 by 17 persons serving as a class, plaintiffs allege that they had been denied the opportunity to rent apartments managed by MBI because of their race. The plaintiffs charged that in 1990 and 1991, when they applied for rental of MBI property, they were asked to fill out information cards, and that these cards were subsequently marked with a code to identify them as African-Americans for discriminatory purposes. This lawsuit, according to attorneys representing the defendants, is near settlement. Physical evidence of these coded cards turned up in another lawsuit, which was filed by a former MBI employee who claims that she was sexually harassed by MBI officials and that MBI policies governing rental properties violate the Fair Housing Act.

-- April 30, 1996


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