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Linkletter v. Western & Southern Financial Group, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 23, 2017

Gayle Linkletter, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Western & Southern Financial Group, Inc.; Kim Chiodi, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: January 24, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati. No. 1:15-cv-00162-Timothy S. Black, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Ted L. Wills, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Deborah S. Adams, FROST BROWN TODD LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Ted L. Wills, Cincinnati, Ohio, Jennifer L. Branch, GERHARDSTEIN & BRANCH CO. LPA, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Deborah S. Adams, Neal Shah, FROST BROWN TODD LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

          Before: MERRITT, CLAY, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

         In this Fair Housing Act case that was dismissed for failure to state a valid claim, the plaintiff, Gayle Linkletter, signed an online petition supporting a Cincinnati women's shelter, the Anna Louise Inn, after she had accepted a position with the defendant, Western & Southern. Western & Southern rescinded its employment agreement with Linkletter because she signed the petition while the company was engaged in a lengthy real estate dispute with the women's shelter over its location in the neighborhood. Residents of the shelter had previously sued Western & Southern in federal court under the Fair Housing Act, particularly 42 U.S.C. § 3617. As a result of that earlier litigation, Western & Southern reached a settlement with the shelter and purchased the property. After Linkletter's employment contract was rescinded she sued Western & Southern and its employee, Kim Chiodi, under § 3617 and the state analog in the Ohio Civil Rights Act. Section 3617 states in the part relevant to this case as follows:

It shall be unlawful to . . . interfere with any person . . . on account of his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by section 3603, 3604, 3605, or 3606 of this title.

42 U.S.C. § 3617.[1] Specifically, Linkletter claims her petition-signing encouraged the residents of the women's shelter in their rights granted by § 3604, involving discrimination in the rental or sale of housing:

[I]t shall be unlawful . . . (a) To refuse to sell or rent . . . or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of . . . sex . . . . (b) To discriminate . . . in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of . . . sex . . . . (c) To make, print, or publish . . . any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on . . . sex . . . . (d) To represent to any person because of . . . sex . . . that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when such dwelling is in fact so available . . . . (e) For profit, to induce or attempt to induce any person to sell or rent any dwelling by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons of a particular . . . sex . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 3604(a)-(e).

         We conclude that Linkletter presents a plausible claim for relief. Taking the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, Linkletter's petition-signing supporting the shelter fits within the meaning of the phrase "aided or encouraged" and the defendants' rescission of their employment agreement constitutes an "interference" with that encouragement. Accordingly, the district court was ...


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