Black man and woman, ordered to pay $60,000
In what state officials say is the largest award for damages ever issued in a housing discrimination case, the owners of a Malden, Mass. realty company have been ordered to pay more than $60,000 to a man and woman by the Massachusetts Committee Against Discrimination (MCAD).
The decision was reached late in 1995 and found that Realty World/Danca Realty Company had discriminated against Rumas Barrett by denying housing based on his race. Barrett, a youth program coordinator and educator, is Black. He was awarded $50, 000 in damages. The award was significant because of the large amount and the fact that it was awarded entirely for emotional distress.
Donna Graham, a Black woman, worked as a housing tester for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Association (LCCR). After Barrett registered his complaint, the LCCR sent two testers, Graham and a White woman to ver ify that Realty World/Danca Realty had been engaging in a pattern of discrimination. Graham, like Barrett, was denied the opportunity to rent the Cedar Street apartment in Malden. She was awarded $10,000. With interest accruing, Realty World/Danca Real ty may end up paying close to $90,000.
MCAD Commissioner Charles E. Walker Jr. heard testimony and made the ruling in the case. On December 6, 1995, he told the Boston Globe, "It's hard to put a monetary figure on pain. Hopefully, it will send a message to other people contemplating discrimination against other persons."
The case began in August 1990 when Barrett made several unsuccessful attempts to rent a second-floor apartment on Cedar Street in Malden. He was shown the apartment by John King, president of Realty World/Danca Realty. Two days later, he was tol d by realtors that it was no longer available. According to MCAD documents, Barrett asked a White, female friend of his to call Realty World/Danca Realty and see if they would show her the apartment. She was shown the same apartment that Barrett had see n. She was told that the apartment was available.
Barrett contacted the LCCR, a non-profit organization specializing in discrimination cases. The LCCR immediately sent out its testers to try and prove Barrett's allegations of discrimination. Without revealing their racial identities over the te lephone, both Graham and the White tester made separate appointments with Realty World/Danca Realty personnel to see the Malden apartment.
Graham testified that she was to meet King at the train station on August 24, 1991, but he failed to show up. Graham said that Rita Philpot, another employee of Realty World/Danca Realty, picked her up and showed her the apartment in Malden. Gra ham said that she expressed interest in renting the apartment and Philpot agreed to take her back to the office to fill out an application. She said that Philpot suddenly changed her mind, said that no one was in the office who could give her an applicat ion, and that she should call John King another time if she was still interested in the apartment. Graham testified that she felt she had been discouraged from applying for the apartment.
The White tester testified that she called Philpot on August 29, 1991 and made an appointment to see an apartment in Somerville, Mass. in the same price range as the Malden apartment. Graham testified that she called Philpot 45 minutes after the White tester set up an appointment and was told that the apartment was no longer available. Barrett testified that he told King to call if another apartment in his price range became available. Barrett was never informed of the Somerville apartment. Th e White tester testified that Philpot showed her the apartment, gave her a rental application, and encouraged her to fill out the application.