Chicago Commission orders apartment owner to pay $3,750 for the harassment of mixed race family

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations has ordered the owner of an apartment building to pay $3,500 as compensatory emotional distress damages to resolve a complaint of racial discrimination against him.

Russell Hyman, who owned the building from 1993 or 1994 until mid-1997, is also being ordered to pay $250 to the City of Chicago for violating the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance. The order, published earlier this year, resolves a complaint that Hyman discriminated against and harassed a mixed race family that occupied one of his apartments from 1995 until 1998.

Ruth Byrd, a white woman, lived in Kenmore Apartments with Leroy Pig, an African American man, from 1995 to 1998. Pig’s African American children visited the apartment every other weekend during the school year and spent their summers at Kenmore with Pig and Byrd. The complaint, filed by Byrd, alleged that Hyman and Carlos Rodriguez, harassed her, Pig and his children because they are African American.

Rodriguez was the janitor of Kenmore when Byrd moved in and later became the manager. As the manager,Rodriguez referred to Pig’s children as “niggers,” “monkeys,” and told them to “go back to Cabrini Green.” (Cabrini Green is a public housing project in Chicago.) He also made various racially discriminatory and humiliating remarks to both Pig and Byrd. While Byrd presented no evidence that Hyman personally engaged in any discriminatory action, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations held him liable for the actions of Rodriguez because Hyman had “the right to control the manner and method in which work was carried out by [Rodriguez].”

Hyman and Rodriguez tried to present a defense that Rodriguez was simply a hard person to get along with. According to the testimony of a tenant in Kenmore Apartments, Rodriguez “was just nasty toward everybody, no matter what color they were...not toward certain nationalities. Toward everybody.” However, the Commission noted that this defense does not relieve Rodriguez of culpability for the discriminatory comments that he made toward Byrd and those with whom she associated.