In February 2016, a Cleveland Family Dollar Store and its contracted security company, Citywide Protection, refused to serve two transgender women, Jane Doe and her friend, because of their gender presentation.

Legal Theory

The City of Cleveland has an ordinance protecting people from gender identity discrimination in places of public accommodation (e.g., stores and restaurants). Family Dollar and Citywide discriminated against Doe when they refused her service because of her gender presentation.

Status Update

We filed a complaint with the City of Cleveland Fair Housing Board on April 15, 2016, pursuant to the Cleveland’s public accommodations ordinance. Mona Scott, the Fair Housing Administrator, reviewed the complaint and submitted it to the Board on April 19. The Board certified the matter for investigation. On May 2 we submitted a supplemental complaint form as requested by the Board. Subsequently the Board sent a Notice of Complaint to the parties. Administrator Scott perfected service on both defendants, the Family Dollar store and Citywide Protection, but neither responded to the complaint or to Administrator Scott’s repeated efforts to initiate mediation.

On October 25, 2016 the Board held an evidentiary hearing on the matter. We attended the hearing with Doe but were not entitled to represent her during the proceedings. Neither defendant appeared. Immediately following the hearing we submitted a post-hearing brief to the Board, reiterating the harm suffered by Jane Doe and our request for relief including compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees as allowed under the Cleveland ordinance.

On December 12, 2016, the Board issued its findings and decision in favor of our client. The decision ordered each defendant to design a cultural competency training program for its staff to be reviewed by the Board and conducted annually; to reimburse the City the amount of $175 (split between the parties) for the cost of conducting the hearing, and to each pay our client $7,500 ($15,000 total) in punitive damages. The decision ordered the training to occur within 180 days, or by June 12, 2017 and the damages to be paid within 90 days, or by March 13, 2017. On January 11, 2017, the Family Dollar defendant filed a notice of appeal of this decision to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, but then filed for dismissal of its own appeal on March 2, 2017.

The time for Defendants to comply with the Housing Board’s order expired on March 13, 2017. The Family Dollar has begun to comply with the terms of the Order. The company has paid $7,500 in damages to our client, and is working with the Housing Board to develop the required cultural competency training. However, Citywide Protection has not complied with the Order nor shown any sign that it may.

Date filed

April 15, 2016