The Equal Rights Center (ERC) was founded in 1983 with a focus on housing discrimination. Throughout the years, the mission has grown and programs have expanded, now “dedicated to promoting equal opportunity in housing, employment, and access to public accommodations and government services through education, research, testing, advocacy, and enforcement.”
On November 27th 2012, ERC hosted a free workshop at Ayuda about fair housing where individuals could come learn about their rights to access fair housing, including self- advocacy tools. The workshop aimed to provide the community with the tools and resources an individual would need to navigate housing systems in DC.
Civil rights law protects all people, regardless of what ones immigration status may be (which is often times a misconception). The seven federally protected classes are:
- National Origin
- Familial Status (families with a child under age 18)
And based on these factors, employers, places of business, landlords, and property managers cannot:
- Deny you a job, housing, or services
- Provide you with worse services, housing options, or wages than someone else
- Physically or sexually assault you, tell offensive jokes, call you names, or intimidate you, etc.
ERC services help anyone who feels they have experienced discrimination and are provided free of charge and are fully confidential. Another interesting aspect of ERC programming is that they recruit testers who pose as prospective renters, job applicants, home buyers, and some are asked to observe a particular store, apartment unit, restaurant, etc. The purpose of the tester is to gather information to ensure that individuals or companies are complying with the law and to identify unlawful discrimination. Testers are compensated and it is a great way to serve the community. Testers contribute to the research and reports conducted by ERC.
If you would like to become a tester and/or get more information visit www.equalrightscenter.org
Survivors of domestic violence are also protected under Federal and DC housing rights laws. For more information about these rights stay tuned for an upcoming blog post and/or visit the District Alliance For Safe Housing (DASH) Housing Resource Center.
–Ramona Santana, Bilingual Court Advocate