Housing Discrimination: Who’s Protected? Protected Groups That Buildings Need to Know


Third in an ongoing series on housing discrimination. Read parts one and two.

In this series, The Cooperator has examined discrimination laws in relation to multifamily buildings. Among the issues we’ve covered included people with physical and mental disabilities. A disability is just part of the general housing protections that people in New York have under the federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Most of them are obvious, and others may be less familiar. Regardless, It’s to the advantage of a building to know what constitutes a legally protected class in order to avoid both discrimination and the legal entanglements that follow when it's committed.

What Are the Protected Classes?

The list of protected classes includes the following:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed or religion
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Source of Income (using government-provided assistance to pay housing costs, for example)
  • Occupation
  • Immigration status
  • Presence of children
  • Status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual violence, or stalking
  • Gender Identity
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or partnership status

According to Deborah B. Koplovitz, an attorney specializing in housing discrimination law with Manhattan-based law firm Anderson Kill P.C., the most recent addition to the list is 'status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual violence or stalking,' which was added on July 26, 2016.  

“This category protects a current spouse, a person with whom another has a child, a person who has lived or is living with another, anyone with whom the victim has had a romantic relationship in the past and even a roommate,” Koplovitz says.  


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  • In my co-op, one shareholder told me in 2012 in poor English, "I get you Russian-speaking only. No Puerto Ricans or Costa Ricans," as to impress me, which I was not. I later e-mailed him that I was Hispanic. Then after some days, he had his daughter reply for him, saying, "There was some misunderstanding." Since then, he's had only Russian- speaking sub-tenants, no Puerto Ricans or Costa Ricans. This discrimination is slipping through our cracks. I wonder if it could ever be penalized. Inquiring minds want to know.