Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
Stick to the Facts
Documentation is extremely important when dealing with accusations of discrimination. Should you or your community ever be accused of discrimination, you must be able to defend your decisions, policies, and practices, as well as demonstrate that all persons were treated equally regardless of membership in one of the protected classes. Accordingly, your documentation should offer a full accounting of facts, including events and actions that were taken, all people involved, and specific dates and times.
As you document, it is important to be mindful of what you write. Even a well-intentioned note you jotted down to jog your memory or that you thought might help you provide more personalized customer service could be problematic. Remember, discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional for it to be illegal.
Here are some things to think about when filling out any type of documentation used at your property:
- Do not include physical descriptions of customers, such as straight hair, or dark skin.
- Do not include references to things that may be related to national origins, such as strong accent.
- Do not include references to things that may be related to a resident’s disability, such as uses a wheelchair or doesn’t hear very well.
- Do not include descriptions of family, such as small children, or twin daughters, or new baby.
If you find yourself writing something that would identify your customer as a member of a protected class, think again. The seven classes currently protected by the federal Fair Housing Act are race, color, national origin, race, religion, sex, disability status, and familial status.
Some states, cities, and municipalities have expanded fair housing protection to include additional protected classes such as sexual orientation, ancestry, marital status, age, source of income, or military status. While it’s important to know if there are additional protected classes in your area, it should not change your policies and practices. All persons should be treated fairly and equally.
A good rule of thumb for documentation is “just the facts.” Avoid documenting any opinion or observation that is not a fact of the situation at hand. Omit unnecessary references and notes, and just stick to the facts.