![if gte IE 9]><![endif]><![if gte IE 9]><![endif]><![if gte IE 9]><![endif]>
Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
There are two ways to prove intentional discrimination (or "disparate treatment"). The first is direct proof of the defendant's discriminatory intent. The second is if the plaintiff points to circumstantial evidence and invokes the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden shifting scheme originally spawned in the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 arena but long since equally entrenched in the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Rehabilitation Act contexts.
Plaintiff, the operator of a residential treatment facility, sought a zoning variance to operate a residential treatment facility on the top floor of a motel that the operator owned. The city denied the variance. When the city demurred, the plaintiff brought the present lawsuit alleging unlawful discrimination against the disabled. The district court granted summary judgment to the city. Plaintiff appealed.
Under the circumstances, was the plaintiff able to establish unlawful discrimination on the part of the city?
The district court’s judgment was affirmed. The court of appeals held that the operator failed to establish that the denial of the variance was due to disability discrimination. The operator argued that a provision of the city code that required residential treatment centers to locate in rural areas was facially discriminatory, but the city did not base its denial of the variance on that code provision. Instead, the city relied on a rule limiting motel stays to 29 days and a rule against residential uses in a commercial zone. The operator failed to establish a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas because there was no evidence that any similarly situated non-disabled applicants had been or would have been granted the zoning relief that the operator was denied. A disparate impact claim failed because there was no evidence that disabled individuals were less able than non-disabled individuals to avail themselves of limited exceptions to the zoning rules. There was no showing of a failure of accommodation under the FHA, 42 U.S.C.S. § 3604(f)(3)(B).