In re Accusation of Department of Fair Employment and Housing, 081412 CAFEHC, H 201011-W-0120-00

Docket Nº:H 201011-W-0120-00, H 201011-W-0120-01, C 11-12-013, 12-06-P, and H 201011-W-0106-00, H 201011-W-0106-01, H 201011-W-0106-02, H 201011-W-0106-03, C 11-12-009
Party Name:In the Matter of the Accusation of the DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING v. HOUSE OF SHALOM, WILLIAM FILION, and JANICE FILION, Respondents. TIFFANY MILES, JEREMIAH JENKINS, KUMARI FISHER, SYMPHANIE CHAMBERS and ISLEY ROBERTS, Complainants. In the Matter of the Accusation of the DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING HOUSE OF SHALOM, HOU
Case Date:August 14, 2012
Court:Fair Employment and Housing Commission of California
 
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In the Matter of the Accusation of the DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING

v.

HOUSE OF SHALOM, WILLIAM FILION, and JANICE FILION, Respondents.

TIFFANY MILES, JEREMIAH JENKINS, KUMARI FISHER, SYMPHANIE CHAMBERS and ISLEY ROBERTS, Complainants.

In the Matter of the Accusation of the DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING HOUSE OF SHALOM, HOUSE OF SHALOM CHURCH, WILLIAM FILION, and JANICE FILION, Respondents.

HOUSING RIGHTS CENTER, Complainant.

Nos. H 201011-W-0120-00, H 201011-W-0120-01, C 11-12-013, 12-06-P, and H 201011-W-0106-00, H 201011-W-0106-01, H 201011-W-0106-02, H 201011-W-0106-03, C 11-12-009

Fair Employment and Housing Commission of California

August 14, 2012

DECISION

Administrative Law Judge Caroline L. Hunt heard this matter on behalf of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission on January 10 and 11, 2012, in Los Angeles, California. Gregory Mann, Senior Staff Counsel, represented the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Complainant Tiffany Miles attended the hearing throughout. There was no appearance at hearing by or on behalf of respondents House of Shalom, House of Shalom Church, William Filion or Janice Filion.

The administrative law judge issued her proposed decision on May 15, 2012. On June 6, 2012, the Commission decided not to adopt the proposed decision and notified the parties of their opportunity to file further argument (NOFA) on or before July 2, 2012. (Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 2, § 7434, subd. (b).)

Both the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, by Senior Staff Counsel Gregory Mann, and respondents, by Linwood Edward Tracy, Jr., as " Private Attorney General, World Prays [sic] Answered, a Foreign Neutral Sovereign Ecclesiastical State, a Religious Order, a Religious Order, " and " Ambassador William Gerald Filion, " timely filed post-hearing briefs in further argument (NOFA briefs).

After consideration of the entire record and review of the parties' NOFA briefs, we now issue our decision, affirming the administrative law judge's proposed decision that the DFEH established that respondents are liable for making statements of preference and discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (the Act or FEHA). (Gov. Code, § 12900, et seq.) We further affirm that the DFEH is entitled to recover damages for complainants Tiffany Miles and Symphanie Chambers and Housing Rights Center as set forth in the administrative law judge's proposed decision, in addition to a civil penalty against respondents in the sum of $10, 000, payable to complainants Tiffany Miles and Symphanie Chambers. We also designate the decision as precedential, as it presents novel and significant issues concerning religious discrimination in housing. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 7435, subd. (a).)

Accordingly, we issue our per curiam decision, setting out the findings of fact and determination of issues, below.

FINDINGS OF FACT

DFEH Complaints and Accusations

1. On October 25 and November 1, 2010, respectively, complainant Housing Rights Center and complainant Tiffany Miles, on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children: complainants Jeremiah Jenkins, Kumari Fisher, Symphanie Chambers and Isley Roberts, filed written, verified housing complaints with the DFEH.

2. In its DFEH complaint, Housing Rights Center named Bill Filion, Janice Taube, House of Shalom and House of Shalom Church, as owners of a single family house located at 1047 West Avenue, H-7, Lancaster, California. Housing Rights Center alleged that its investigators uncovered discriminatory housing practices based on religion because the named owners showed a preference for Christian tenants and imposed a " Christian lifestyle" on tenants, in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA or the Act). (Gov. Code, § 12900, et seq.)

3. In the DFEH complaint filed by Tiffany Miles, complainants alleged that Bill and Janice Filion and House of Shalom were the owners of the single family house located at 1047 West Avenue, H-7, Lancaster, California. The complaint alleged that Bill and Janice Filion harassed Miles and her minor children based on religion (" un-Christian"), thereby creating a hostile and offensive housing environment and, after complainants opposed the harassment, retaliated against Miles and her family by giving them notice to vacate.

4. The DFEH is an administrative agency empowered to issue accusations under Government Code section 12930, subdivision (h). On October 20, 2011, Phyllis W. Cheng, in her official capacity as Director of the DFEH, issued an accusation against respondents House of Shalom, House of Shalom Church, William Filion and Janice Filion, alleging they were the owners of a rental house located at 1047 West Avenue, H-7, Lancaster, California. The DFEH alleged that, on August 23, 2011, tenant Tiffany Miles contacted Housing Rights Center to complain about respondents' unlawful housing practices against Miles and her minor children, based on religion, Christianity. The accusation alleged that respondents' conduct toward Miles and her children, as described in Finding of Fact 5, violated Government Code section 12955, subdivisions (a), (c), and (d), and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code section 51, as incorporated into the FEHA by Government Code section 12948. The DFEH further alleged that Housing Rights Center investigated Miles' complaint and was entitled to recover its expenses, diversion of resources and frustration of mission damages incurred.

5. On October 28, 2011, DFEH Director Phyllis W. Cheng issued an additional accusation against House of Shalom, William Filion, and Janice Filion (respondents), as owners of the house at 1047 West Avenue, H-7, Lancaster, California, alleging that they subjected their tenants, complainants Tiffany Miles, and her minor children: Jeremiah Jenkins, Kumari Fisher, Symphanie Chambers and Isley Roberts, to unlawful housing practices based on religion, Christianity. 1 The DFEH alleged that respondents House of Shalom and William and Janice Filion discriminated against Miles and her children by imposing a particular form of " Christian" lifestyle on their tenants and showing a preference for Christian tenants, in violation of Government Code section 12955, subdivision (a). The DFEH also alleged that respondents made discriminatory and preferential statements based on religion, in violation of Government Code section 12955, subdivision (c). The DFEH's accusation also alleged that respondents violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code section 51, as incorporated into the FEHA at Government Code section 12948.

6. On December 15, 2011, the Commission, on its own motion, ordered the above-referenced cases consolidated for all purposes, with the evidentiary hearing on the consolidated cases scheduled to take place on January 10 and 11, 2012, in Los Angeles, California.

Complainants' Tenancy at 1047 West Avenue, H-7, Lancaster

7. At all times relevant, respondent House of Shalom was the owner of record of improved residential property located at 1047 West Avenue, H-7, Lancaster, California (the subject premises or the house). By grant deed dated March 17, 2005, respondent Janice Filion (formerly Janice Taube) had transferred title to the subject premises from Janice C. Filion, President of House of Shalom, to House of Shalom, a Nevada Non-Profit Religious Corporation. At the time of hearing, Janice Filion, her husband William (Bill) Filion 2 and House of Shalom owned a number of other single family residential properties in Lancaster, Palmdale and Bishop, California.

8. At all times relevant, Janice and William Filion managed the rental of the subject premises, selecting the tenants, signing the leases, collecting the monthly rents, and providing and/or contracting maintenance and repairs.

9. In about April 2010, complainant Tiffany Miles learned that Janice Filion had a rental property available for lease. At that time, Miles was looking for a larger place to live for herself, her four minor children, Jeremiah Jenkins (13 years old), Kumari Fisher (11 years old), Symphanie Chambers (7 years old) and Isley Roberts (5 years old), and her roommate, Naté Turner. Miles and Turner had long-term plans to set up and run a day care center together. When Miles and Turner walked through the subject premises, they noted that it was in disrepair, but both thought that, with work and some necessary repairs, it would be perfect for their home and the planned day care center. They liked the house because it was spacious, on a corner lot, with five bedrooms, two separate entrances, a large living area, and a detached garage, which Miles, a singer who gave voice lessons, planned to convert into a recording studio. Janice Filion was supportive and encouraging of Miles' and Turner's plans, explaining that the house had been her childhood home, and she loved the idea of it becoming a day care center. Janice Filion also invited Miles to sing at her church, House of Shalom.

10. On May 9, 2010, Miles and Turner signed respondents' written lease agreement to rent the subject premises for monthly rent of $600, commencing on June 1, 2010, in a month-to-month tenancy. Janice Filion signed the lease as " " owner/agent" on behalf of the " landlord, " House of Shalom. Under the terms of the lease, the rent would double to $1, 200 a month after four months, on September 30, 2010. Miles and Turner planned to have their day care center fully operational by August 2010, to fund the increase in the rent. Under the terms of the lease, respondents were responsible for the payment of water and trash services, while the tenants paid for electricity, telephone, cable and internet. The lease also specifically authorized Miles and Turner to operate a licensed day...

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