Discrimination is an uncomfortable subject, but it’s also an incredibly important one to talk about in every aspect of our lives, and especially in the workplace. It should be no secret that there are discriminatory practices in real estate, both in and outside the office. It is our responsibility as real estate professionals to take a stand and to take action against these practices.
You might be a person who faces discrimination yourself. Maybe you’re close to others who have faced discrimination in the industry. If you currently run your own brokerage, or are planning on doing so, it will be an issue you inevitably run into. Whatever the case may be, knowing how to identify discrimination and what steps you can take to fight it are important skills that everybody needs to learn. Here are 10 specific ways you can stand up for yourself and for others.
Calling yourself an ally and saying that you’ll stand against discrimination is easy, but actually doing so takes a bit more work. The first bit of work is homework—research. What sort of discriminatory practices are taking place in your specific industry, niche, or area?
In housing and real estate, discriminatory lending, banking, credit, renting, and showing practices are things to keep an eye out for. Particular neighborhoods can have their own red flags too. Taking a peek into certain HOA meetings and messaging can shed some light on these discriminatory practices.
More broadly, know your area. It’s important to learn about and keep tabs on broader discrimination issues like active hate groups that may cause trouble for you, your employees, or your clients. Keeping a careful eye out isn’t everything, but it’s where we start.
This one will be super specific to your situation, but informing yourself on the process of filing a complaint or alerting authorities is very important. Know the protected classes according to the state and to the realtor board, and know what to do when you learn about discriminatory practices.
Learn about the process according to your board, your state, or even your county depending on the situation. It’s also important to learn about these processes in advance, since responding to a time-sensitive act of discrimination shouldn’t be bogged down by this research that should already be done.
Following the institutional path can be slow and frustrating, but taking matters into your own hands can harm your career. Antitrust, libel, and slander laws in the United States are meant to protect us and our businesses from harmful claims made in good faith, but they also limit what you can say about other companies and professionals, even if you’re trying to protect others.
You can’t just go on social media and blow the whistle on other firms or brokers that discriminate. On top of risking your career, these legal protections can just make your efforts futile, or can even come around and benefit the people you’re calling out. It’s important to know what cards are in your hand, and what cards simply aren’t.
When it comes to taking legal action, you need documentation. Emails, messages, and sometimes voice messages or recordings usually count as admissible evidence. It’s also important to keep careful documentation just to make sure you have everything lined up on your end as well. Also, when it comes to recordings, know the law in your state. In some places, you need consent in order to record somebody else, and so secret or unconsented recordings will not be admitted as legal evidence.
Just how taking a stance isn’t enough, knowing the steps isn’t enough either. People shy away from taking action for many reasons, but it’s important to remember that if you don’t take action, who will? In some cases, you might be the only one with the information and resources necessary to do something, so it’s crucial that you actually report and follow through with the case.
Fighting discrimination isn’t easy. The entire history of the United States is filled to the brim with this struggle, and with the struggle against systems that were built specifically against certain minorities. Reaching a good outcome in any discrimination case might not be easy, but you’re in good company if you push through anyway.
Being the target of discrimination, among other things, can feel very lonely, but fighting discrimination is a battle we only win by sticking together. In your workplace, online, and across your industry, it’s important to find and connect with people who can and do face the same discrimination that you do, and work to help each other out. Community is what gets us through this.
This is heavy stuff, and it’s okay to recognize that. In fact, it’s important. On top of documenting for information sake, it’s important to journal, blog, or use some other medium to document your feelings and experiences for your own sake. Find an outlet—take care of yourself!
Like I mentioned, speaking publicly about any of this can be a tricky road to walk, but it’s still an important thing to do! Hiring an attorney is an important step to take not only to make sure that you’re taking the right actions and making the right decisions, but also to help you navigate bringing this information to the public
Similar to the point about banding together, joining an affinity group is a more professional way of building community that is specifically actionable. That means giving and receiving support and advice on what actions to take and how to navigate through tricky situations. Some groups to join and consider are:
No matter who you are or who you work with, chances are, discrimination is a challenge you will have to face sooner or later. Every situation is different, but knowing which steps to take and when to take them is important prep work for anybody in the real estate industry. These 10 points are a great way to start!