The Florida Commission on Human Relations’ Administrative Process (Community Association Quarterly)

July 23, 2012

The Florida Commission on Human Relations’ Administrative Process (Community Association Quarterly)

Published: July 23, 2012 By: Katie Merwin

The Florida Legislature created the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR or Commission) in 1969 to investigate alleged violations of Florida’s Civil Rights Act and Florida’s Fair Housing Act. A fair housing complainant must submit their claim to the FCHR’s investigative process before they are permitted to proceed in court. What follows is an overview of the administrative process that takes place once a fair housing complaint is filed with the Commission.[1]

I. Commencement

  • The administrative process begins with the filing of a written and verified complaint at the office of the Commission.
  • The complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination.[2]
  • A response from the respondent is required within 20 days of the date of notice of the filing of the complaint.[3]

II. Investigation

  • The Commission assigns an investigator, who has authority to request interviews, written interrogatories, production of documents, site inspections, and a written statement or affidavit from either party.[4]
  • The Commission is charged with the obligation to encourage settlement of all claims on mutually agreeable terms. Accordingly, the investigator’s initial efforts are often focused on determining whether an amicable resolution is possible.[5]
  • The investigation period is slated to last 100 days, at which time the Commission issues a Notice of Determination of either “No Cause” or “Cause,” accompanied by a Final Investigative Report detailing the investigator’s findings.[6]

III. Determination

  • Notice of Determination (“No Cause”): The investigator was unable to find reasonable cause that a discriminatory housing practice occurred. Following a “No Cause” determination, the complainant is presented with the following options:

1) Within 30 days of service of the determination, a complainant may file a Petition for Relief from a Discriminatory Housing Practice, which appeals the investigator’s findings to an Administrative Law Judge assigned by the Division of Administrative Hearings. [7]

2) The complainant may file a civil action in federal or state court within two years of the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory conduct. The computation of this two-year period excludes the time from the filing of the fair housing complaint with the Commission through the end of the FCHR’s administrative proceedings.[8]

  • Notice of Determination (“Cause”): The investigator finds that there is reasonable cause to believe a discriminatory housing practice occurred. A “Cause” determination leaves the complainant with several options to pursue relief from the alleged discriminatory conduct:

1) The complainant may request that the Attorney General bring a court action in the name of the state on the complainant’s behalf.[9]

2) The complainant may request that the Commission petition for an administrative hearing in the name of the state on the complainant’s behalf.[10]

3) The complainant may initiate a civil action no later than two years after the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory act. Again, the computation of this two-year period excludes the time from the filing of the fair housing complaint with the Commission through the end of the FCHR’s administrative proceedings.[11]

  • If the investigator does not make a determination of either “Cause” or “No Cause” within 180 days following the filing of a complaint, the complainant may commence a civil action in any appropriate court against the respondent.[12]

IV. Administrative Hearings

  • The filing of a Petition for Relief from a Discriminatory Housing Practice typically results in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge assigned by the Division of Administrative Hearings.[13]
  • Following the hearing, the Commission ether dismisses the petition or, in the event the Commission determines that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred, it issues an order prohibiting the practice and providing relief, which may include damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.[14]

V. Appeals

  • Any party may appeal the Commission’s decision within 30 days of the written determination by filing a notice of appeal or petition for review in accordance with the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.[15]

Endnotes

[1] Fla. Stat. § 760.30

[2] Fla. Stat. § 760.34(2)

[3] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-7.002

[4] Fla. Stat. § 760.32

[5] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-7.004

[6] Fla. Stat. § 760.34

[7] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-7.004

[8] 42 U.S.C. § 3613(a)(1)(B)

[9] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-7.004

[10] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-8.001

[11] 42 U.S.C. § 3613(a)(1)(B)

[12] Fla. Stat. § 760.34(4)

[13] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-4.016

[14] Fla. Admin. Code r. 60Y-8.001

[15] Fla. Stat. § 120.68 and the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.


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