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December 2021

New York Team Obtains Complete Dismissal of Housing Discrimination Suit Brought by New York’s Department of State

Co-Managing Partner Misty Marris, Senior Counsel Jeffrey Camhi, and Associate Christopher Coyne secured a complete dismissal of a housing discrimination complaint brought by the New York State Department of State (“DOS”).

In 2019, Newsday, a New York City and Long Island Newspaper, published its findings from a years-long undercover investigation of Long Island real estate brokers.  Newsday’s investigation consisted of “testers” who posed as potential homebuyers and secretly recorded their interactions with the subject brokers. Newsday concluded that many of these brokers had discriminated against the testers by “steering” them toward or away from certain Long Island neighborhoods based on race.

Following Newsday’s publication, the New York State Senate held formal hearings on the issue of housing discrimination on Long Island and subpoenaed each of the brokers accused of steering.  The State also passed enhanced legislation meant to curb housing discrimination.  In addition, the DOS charged many of the brokers identified in the Newsday article with discrimination, untrustworthiness, and incompetency.

Here, based on the recorded interactions between respondent, an associate real estate broker, and Newsday’s testers (a Caucasian female and an Asian female), the DOS charged that the respondent had steered the testers away from diverse neighborhoods including Wyandanch and diverse school districts including Amityville.  The Gordon & Rees team represented the broker before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) with the New York State Office of Administrative Law Judges, and presented evidence that directly refuted DOS’ claim of discrimination. The ALJ credited all of the respondent’s testimony and explanations for the statements she had made to Newsday’s testers, rejected DOS’ allegations of discrimination and incompetency in full, and concluded that respondent was “doing exactly what she [was] supposed to do” when working with potential homebuyers.  As such, the complaint was dismissed in its entirety.  

The ruling was a decisive and complete victory.  The Gordon & Rees team was able to obtain the complete dismissal of DOS’ complaint, but also secure a vindicating decision for the respondent.

Jeffrey A. Camhi
Misty D. Marris