Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Residents Through Civil Rights Enforcement - July 2012
Civil rights enforcement is a central part of our mission to improve the quality of life in the Eastern District of Michigan. Our region is a more attractive place to live and conduct business when all people feel welcome and protected.
Our Civil Rights Unit, launched in 2010, has brought cases enforcing fair housing and fair lending laws, disability rights, voting rights, and employment rights of service members, as well as ensuring that local police departments engage in constitutional policing. Civil Rights Chief Judy Levy and her staff work tirelessly to protect the rights of all of our residents.
In one fair housing case, a jury returned a verdict awarding compensatory and punitive damages to low-income women who had been sexually harassed by their landlord in Ypsilanti. In other cases, we obtained settlements with landlords who were illegally discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of their race or familial status in Ann Arbor and Monroe. In addition to paying monetary settlements to victims of the discrimination, the defendants in these cases changed their discriminatory rental policies.
In a fair lending case, Citizens Republic Bancorp agreed to make funds available to qualified minority borrowers, who had allegedly been denied opportunities to obtain home loans. In addition, the bank provided funding for consumer education and agreed to open a loan origination office in Detroit.
We have also focused on protecting the rights of our disabled citizens. In one case, Henry Ford Health Services agreed to provide sign-language interpretation for patients who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to assure accurate communication between patients and their health care providers, which is so critical to obtaining adequate care.
In a voting rights case in Flint, we obtained an agreement to provide access to polling locations so that voters who use wheelchairs may access polling sites that had previously been inaccessible.
We also work to protect the rights of military service members and veterans. In one case, we protected the employment rights of a Highland Park firefighter who served his country in Iraq as a military reservist. Upon his return, he learned that he had lost promotional opportunities to which he was entitled under the law, which forbids adverse employment action on account of military duty. We obtained a settlement that restored his promotion and provided him with back pay and benefits.
Our Civil Rights Unit continues to work with the Detroit Police Department to achieve full compliance with a consent decree requiring improvements in police practices. Compliance has improve from 29 percent in 2010 to 85 percent today. We will continue to work on this case until full compliance is attained.
These cases are part of the Justice Department's priority to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Here in the Eastern District of Michigan, we want to ensure that all of our residents receive the full protections of the laws and Constitution of the United States.
If you are aware of a potential civil rights violation, please call our civil rights hotline at 313-226-9141, or visit our website at http://www.justice.gov/usao/mie/programs/civil_rights.html
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan