Trump’s Disregard for Antidiscrimination Laws Goes Back Decades

Q.  What do the DOJ, Sen. McCarthy, and multiple NY civil rights organizations have in common?
A.  Why, Donald Trump, of course.

Anyone who has paid attention to this election won’t be surprised to learn that Donald Trump has been sued more than once for discrimination.  But what may surprise is that the first lawsuit he faced was:

In 1973, the Department of Justice brought a suit against Trump Management Inc. for discriminating against people of color who were looking to rent any of the 15,000 apartments managed by Trump’s real estate company.  Prior to the suit, only 1-3.5% of Trump’s renters in New York City were minorities.

trump discrimination lawsuit

Per reports from the Washington Post (and the Village Voice, and the Daily Beast), the DOJ amassed evidence both through the use of NY City Human Rights Commission testers (people who pose as possible renters and have identical information except for their race) and through a federal investigation which unearthed evidence that Trump either outright denied minority applicants housing or

 secretly marked the applications of minorities with codes, such as “No. 9” and “C” for “colored,” according to government interview accounts filed in federal court. The [Trump] employees allegedly directed blacks and Puerto Ricans away from buildings with mostly white tenants, and steered them toward properties that had many minorities…

Two years later, Trump agreed to a consent decree.  The terms of the decree are significant enough that the company never would have agreed to them unless the evidence was damning.  For example, Trump agreed to give the New York Urban League a weekly listing of vacancies in all buildings and to allow the non-profit to also provide qualified applicants for 20% of vacancies in buildings where minority renters had been systematically excluded.

Allowing that sort of outside monitoring is very rare.  In fact, most companies would rather spend millions of dollars and years of litigation rather than giving in to terms that provide that level of intervention.  Unsurprisingly, the Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division publicly acknowledged that the consent decree, because of its broad scope, would “have a significant impact on housing opportunities in the New York area.”

As for Trump’s claim in the debate last week that the suit was not just against him but instead was agains “many real estate firms?”  It’s simply not true.  The case was United States of America v. Fred Trump, Donald Trump, and Trump Management, Inc.  That means there were only three defendants — Trump, his dad, and the company they ran together.

While one might hope that Trump learned his lesson from all of this, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Based upon sworn testimony from numerous Trump employees in 2009, his disregard for federal antidiscrimination laws seems to be intact.  But that is a story for another day…

Katherine Kimpel

Kate Kimpel is the Senior Editor of Shattering the Ceiling and is also an accomplished civil rights lawyer. She represents women and people of color in discrimination cases (and other kinds of employment and civil rights matters).  When not lawyering, she likely is bragging about her hound dog Ulysses, inventing cocktails to serve at her next dinner party, or convincing her husband to watch reruns of a Joss Whedon television show (any of them will do). 

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