Unlawful Evictions of Female Victims of Domestic Violence: Extending Title Vii's Sex Stereotyping Theories to the Fair Housing Act

By Whitehorn, Elizabeth M. | Northwestern University Law Review, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Unlawful Evictions of Female Victims of Domestic Violence: Extending Title Vii's Sex Stereotyping Theories to the Fair Housing Act


Whitehorn, Elizabeth M., Northwestern University Law Review


INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................... 1419

I. DISCRIMINATORY SEX STEREOTYPING UNDER TITLE VII.................................... 1428

A. Expectation Stereotyping .......................................................................... 1429

B. Non-conformist Stereotyping..................................................................... 1430

II. LANDLORDS ' USE OF ONE-STRIKE POLICIES TO EVICT FEMALE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ......................................................................................... 1434

A. The Origin of One-Strike Policies........................ ..................................... 1434

B. One-Strike Policies Applied to Female Victims of Domestic Violence and Congress' Recent Response ...................................................................... 1437

III. DISCRIMINATORY SEX STEREOTYPES As MOTIVATION FOR LANDLORDS TO EVICT FEMALE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE......................................................... 1439

IV. EXPANDING THE FAIR HOUSING ACT' s SEX DISCRIMINATION JURISPRUDENCE TO INCORPORATE SEX STEREOTYPING AS A THEORY FOR PROVING THAT DISCRIMINATION WAS BECAUSE OF SEX ............................................................ 1442

A. The Fair Housing Act's Sex Discrimination Jurisprudence...................... 1443

B. Applying Title VII's Evolving Sex Discrimination Jurisprudence to the Housing Context To Protect Women from New Forms of Discrimination 1445

V. FEMALE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MAY STATE A CLAIM FOR SEX DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEX STEREOTYPING UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT................................................................................................................... 1447

A. Proving that Sex Was a Motivating Factor in the Plaintiff's Eviction ...... 1 448

B. The Landlord's Arguments........................................................................ 1453

CONCLUSION.............................................................................................................. 1457

INTRODUCTION

On October 15, 2003, Quinn Bouley's husband assaulted her in their apartment. She fled the apartment, called the police, and applied for a restraining order that night. She also pressed criminal charges to which her husband later pled guilty. Three days later, Bouley's landlord, Jacqueline Young-Sabourin, with whom Bouley had no previous problems, served her with an eviction notice requiring her to leave her apartment within 30 days.1 The notice stated that Bouley had violated the following clause in her lease: "Tenant will not use or allow said premises or any part thereof to be used for unlawful purposes, in any noisy, boisterous or any other manner offensive to any other occupant of the building."2 Before sending the eviction notice, Young-Sabourin visited Bouley to discuss what had happened between Bouley and her husband. When Young-Sabourin started questioning Bouley about her personal beliefs and family situation, Bouley got angry, allegedly yelled at Young-Sabourin, and refused to continue the conversation. From this incident, Young-Sabourin concluded that "the violence that ha[d] been happening in [Bouley's] unit would continue" unless she evicted her.3

Bouley sued Young-Sabourin, claiming that her eviction was based on her status as a female victim of domestic violence and therefore constituted sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.4 The Vermont District Court, issuing a decision on cross-motions for summary judgment, found that Bouley had made a prima facie case of sex discrimination.5 The court held that Bouley's claim that "the termination was initiated because she was a victim of domestic violence . . . , if proven, could constitute unlawful discrimination under the Fair Housing Act."6 This marks the first time a federal court has suggested that a female victim of domestic violence may state a claim for intentional sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. …

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