Plaintiffs can file suit under the Fair Housing Act for practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if the accused wasn't purposely discriminating, the Supreme Court said Thursday in a 5-to-4 decision. In "Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project," the court considered whether the Fair Housing Act, which bars refusal to sell or rent housing based on characteristics such as race and sex, allows suits based on disparate impact. Disparate-impact claims are used to show that a practice's effects are discriminatory, even if the accused wasn't intending to discriminate. "Suits targeting unlawful zoning laws and other housing restrictions that unfairly exclude minorities from certain neighborhoods without sufficient justification are at the heartland of disparate-impact liability," according to the court. The decision was a surprise, wrote SCOTUSBLOG, a site that closely tracks the court: "This is a big deal for housing rights and civil rights groups."
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