Newsletter: Targeting Discrimination in the District
Targeting Discrimination in the District
OAG recently established a Civil Rights Section to enforce civil rights protections and address the spike in hate crimes in the District that have targeted the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations. This new civil rights team works to promote equal justice under the law and stands up for residents who face illegal discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected traits.
Our civil rights attorneys have already hit the ground running, recently filing a lawsuit against Curtis Investment Group, the landlord of several apartment buildings in Wards 7 and 8, for discriminating against renters who use housing vouchers. In the lawsuit, OAG alleges the landlord used discriminatory language in online rental ads like "not accepting vouchers at this time,” which is illegal. Our office is seeking to stop this landlord from engaging in discriminatory practices and secure civil penalties for violating District law. OAG also sent letters to several companies that host rental listings, including Zillow and Craigslist, to educate them and call on them to work with us to ensure that discriminatory ads are not posted on their sites.
OAG is also currently seeking community input at several Civil Rights Listening Sessions across the city. At these public sessions hosted by OAG, community members are invited to share their personal experiences with discrimination and their top civil rights concerns with OAG’s civil rights team. We are soliciting public input to help inform OAG’s civil rights priorities and initiatives. Click below to RSVP:
- Saturday, July 13 from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM at the Emery Heights Community Center (5701 Georgia Ave. NW)
- Thursday, July 18 from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM at the Reeves Center (2000 14th NW)
- Tuesday, July 23 from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library (1800 Good Hope Rd SE)
- Thursday, July 25 from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM at the Georgetown University Law Center (12th floor of the Gewirz Student Center, 120 F St. NW)
Karl A. Racine
Cracking Down on Hidden “Resort Fees”
This week, AG Racine filed a lawsuit against Marriot International, Inc. for charging consumers deceptive hidden “resort fees” when booking hotel rooms. To lure consumers, Marriott advertised daily room rates that were lower than the true total price consumers were required to pay for a room. Then, during booking, mandatory fees were added on top of advertised rates, which allowed Marriott to reap hundreds of millions in profits without appearing to raise prices. This kind of bait-and-switch advertising and other forms of deceptive pricing are unfair and illegal. OAG is seeking a court order to force Marriott to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms up front, pay monetary relief for DC consumers who were charged deceptive resort fees, and pay civil penalties for violating the District’s consumer protection laws. Learn more.
Protecting Local Jobs and Economic Development
To help the District crack down on businesses that cheat to win government contracts, AG Racine introduced legislation in the DC Council that will increase oversight of Certified Business Enterprises, boost penalties for fraudulent businesses, and make it easier to report fraud. The District gives local businesses an edge in competing for government contracts to support local jobs and drive economic development; however, some non-District businesses lie to get this competitive edge, and this robs our residents of jobs and harms local businesses. More details about the Small and Certified Business Enterprise Protection and Enforcement Amendment Act of 2019.
Last Chance to Provide Feedback on Rayful Edmond Resentencing
Monday, July 15 is the last day for District residents and the community to share their views with OAG about whether a federal judge should reduce Rayful Edmond’s sentence. OAG will submit a brief to the Court in August that reflects the community’s input. The court did not ask OAG to make a recommendation for resentencing, but to share the community’s feedback. You can submit comments online, by mail, or by telephone by July 15 at RayfulEdmondFeedback.com.
Supporting Life-Saving Solutions to the Opioid Crisis
This week, OAG led an eight-state coalition in supporting the rights of states to enact public health policies that can prevent opioid overdoses. In opposition to the Trump administration, AG Racine and other State Attorneys General are supporting Safehouse, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, that has plans to operate a medically supervised “safe injection site” where high-risk users can consume opioids and receive immediate medical care in the event of an overdose. States are on the front lines of the opioid crisis and must have the latitude to enact evidence-based solutions like safe injection sites that save lives. Learn more.
WIN: Court Allows OAG Lawsuit Against Facebook to Proceed
For a second time, the court has denied Facebook’s attempt to stop OAG’s lawsuit that seeks to hold the company accountable for not protecting the personal data of nearly half of DC residents. Facebook’s lax oversight and misleading privacy settings allowed, among other things, a third-party application to use the platform to harvest the personal information of millions of users without their permission and then sell it to a political consulting firm. OAG is pressing on with discovery in its case to protect consumers. District consumers should follow these steps to protect their personal information when using social media platforms like Facebook.
Defending Critical Housing Assistance To Immigrants And Children
AG Racine co-led a group of 23 Attorneys General in opposing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed rule that would deny housing assistance to anyone—including lawful residents—whose household includes an undocumented immigrant. Under this new rule, approximately 58,000 District residents would have to complete an onerous verification process of their immigration status or risk losing housing assistance for their entire household. This is yet another cruel and transparent attempt by the Trump administration to scare our immigrant community from using public benefits to which they are entitled under long-standing law and practice. Learn more.
WIN: Court Blocks Trump from Adding Citizenship Question to Census
AG Racine, along with several other State Attorneys General, successfully blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 Census. This ruling from the Supreme Court is a huge win for democracy, ensuring a fair and accurate census. Adding a citizenship question to the Census could have discouraged turnout in immigrant communities, having lasting consequences on the District and states’ political representation and access to critical funds earmarked for education, infrastructure, healthcare, and more. Learn more