By Emily A. Bruemmer
On March 28, 2019, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a Charge of Discrimination against Facebook, alleging that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act “by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.” This is an administrative action filed by the Secretary of HUD, on behalf of complainant Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, before the Office of Administrative Law Judges at HUD. Unless any of the parties chooses to have the case heard in federal district court, an administrative law judge will hear the charge and may award damages, in addition to injunctive or other equitable relief, attorney fees, and fines. HUD previously announced a formal complaint, initiated by the Secretary of HUD, against Facebook in August 2018. The formal complaint was the first step in a process that then moved to a fact-finding investigation. Last month’s charge indicates that the investigation resulted in a determination that there was reasonable cause to believe that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act.