Page:Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.pdf/2

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TEXAS DEPT. OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS v. INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES PROJECT, INC.

Syllabus

left predominantly black inner cities surrounded by mostly white suburbs, the Act addresses the denial of housing opportunities on the basis of "race, color, religion, or national origin." In 1988, Congress amended the FHA, and, as relevant here, created certain exemptions from liability.

Held: Disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. Pp. 7–24.

(a) Two antidiscrimination statutes that preceded the FHA are relevant to its interpretation. Both §703(a)(2) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and §4(a)(2) of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) authorize disparate-impact claims. Under Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U. S. 424, and Smith v. City of Jackson, 544 U. S. 228, the cases announcing the rule for Title VII and for the ADEA, respectively, antidiscrimination laws should be construed to encompass disparate-impact claims when their text refers to the consequences of actions and not just to the mindset of actors, and where that interpretation is consistent with statutory purpose. Disparate-impact liability must be limited so employers and other regulated entities are able to make the practical business choices and profit-related decisions that sustain the free-enterprise system. Before rejecting a business justification—or a governmental entity’s analogous public interest—a court must determine that a plaintiff has shown that there is "an available alternative . . . practice that has less disparate impact and serves the [entity's] legitimate needs." Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U. S. 557, 578. These cases provide essential background and instruction in the case at issue. Pp. 7–10.

(b) Under the FHA it is unlawful to "refuse to sell or rent . . . or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to a person because of race" or other protected characteristic, §804(a), or "to discriminate against any person in" making certain real-estate transactions "because of race" or other protected characteristic, §805(a). The logic of Griggs and Smith provides strong support for the conclusion that the FHA encompasses disparate-impact claims. The results-oriented phrase "otherwise make unavailable" refers to the consequences of an action rather than the actor’s intent. See United States v. Giles, 300 U. S. 41, 48. And this phrase is equivalent in function and purpose to Title VII’s and the ADEA’s “otherwise adversely affect" language. In all three statutes the operative text looks to results and plays an identical role: as a catchall phrase, located at the end of a lengthy sentence that begins with prohibitions on disparate treatment. The introductory word "otherwise" also signals a shift in emphasis from an actor’s intent to the consequences of his actions. This similarity in text and structure is even more compelling because Congress passed the FHA only four years after Title VII and four months after the