Los Angeles real estate agent pays $100,000 after hanging up on African American applicant

An African American woman who sued a Los Angeles landlord for racial discrimination in the rental of housing obtained a $100,000 settlement in July. Her attorneys at the Southern California Housing Rights Center (HRC) have also announced that the landlord and her future agents will participate in a two-year comprehensive fair housing training program, conduct affirmative advertising, and submit to a fair housing monitoring program.

Jeannette Jackson sued Pearla Staples and her company, Staples Realty, in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that Staples and her agents discriminated against applicants on the basis of race in the operation of Staples’ rental properties. Among the complaint’s allegations were that when Jackson called to inquire into a vacancy, the defendants asked about her race and nationality. When Jackson responded that she was African-American, Staples hung up the phone.

Real estate agent: "Is she black or white?"

Later, a Culver City Housing Authority caseworker called Staples Realty on behalf of Jackson. Staples allegedly asked the caseworker, "Is she black or white?" The caseworker reprimanded Staples and terminated the telephone call. After that call, Jackson called the Housing Rights Center, a private fair housing agency, who investigated the complaint and then provided legal representation. "It is shocking that these obviously racial questions are still being asked by landlords thirty-four years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act," said HRC attorney Felicia Yearwood. "The case’s facts and the end result underscore the importance of and continuing need for the work done by the Housing Rights Center and other groups providing fair housing services." Along with the payment of $100,000, the defendants must also participate in a comprehensive two-year program under the court’s jurisdiction. The terms include fair housing training for each defendant; affirmative advertising; display of fair housing posters; and monitoring by the Housing Rights Center.

Along with Felicia Yearwood, the plaintiffs were also represented by Gary Rhoades and Danielle Jones with the Housing Rights Center.

Jackson v. Staples Realty Case No. BC254741
Los Angeles Superior Court
Felicia Yearwood, Gary Rhoades, and Danielle Jones
Attorneys for Complainant