The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled today that a New Jersey condominium association’s gender-segregated pool hours violated the federal Fair Housing Act.
In Curto v. A Country Place Condominium Association, Inc., the condominium association segregated its swimming-pool schedule by gender, arguing that the discriminatory policy is necessary because many of the association's Orthodox Jewish residents are religiously prohibited from swimming with members of the opposite gender. Under the schedule, women are provided with almost no swimming time in the evenings based on the belief that they are home during the work day and may swim then. Moreover, less than one-third of the pool hours allowed for men and women to swim together. Rejecting the schedule’s “inequitable features,” the Court explained that “[w]omen with regular-hour jobs thus have little access to the pool during the work week, and the schedule appears to reflect particular assumptions about the roles of men and women.”
José Román, who represented the plaintiffs in the district court and is co-counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Jersey, had the following response:
“Our clients began this challenge three years ago, and for that entire time, have been subjected to a discriminatory pool schedule. Today’s decision is a vindication of their civil rights. Today, our clients are celebrating this victory.”
Jeanne LoCicero, legal director at the ACLU of New Jersey had the following response:
“With today’s clear victory, other homeowner’s associations should take note that making rules based on outmoded gender stereotypes puts them at risk of liability under the Fair Housing Act.”
The association’s segregated pool schedule was challenged by several condominium owners whose access to the amenity was severely restricted as a result of the discriminatory policy. Plaintiffs Steve and Diana Lusardi moved to the complex after Mrs. Lusardi suffered a series of strokes and needed pool therapy to recover, and plaintiff Marie Curto works full-time and is thus unable to swim during the vast majority of hours designated for women. They faced fines for swimming at times designated for the other gender.
Sandra Park, senior staff attorney for the Women’s Right Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, lauded the ruling:
“Today’s ruling is a victory for gender equality. The association’s pool policy not only impermissibly segregated swimming time by gender but it doubled down on that discrimination by allotting swimming hours based on stereotypes about the roles men and women play in the home and the workplace. This type of discrimination has no place in housing or anywhere else.”
Curto Opinion (PDF)