Florida Senate - 2019                                     SB 958
       By Senator Rouson
       19-00358-19                                            2019958__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to housing discrimination; amending s.
    3         760.07, F.S.; removing housing discrimination as a
    4         cause of action for certain relief and damages
    5         stemming from violations of the Florida Civil Rights
    6         Act of 1992; amending s. 760.34, F.S.; revising the
    7         conditions under which an aggrieved person may
    8         commence a civil action in any appropriate court
    9         against a specified respondent to enforce specified
   10         rights; providing that the aggrieved person does not
   11         need to pursue certain other remedies before
   12         commencing a civil action; making technical changes;
   13         amending s. 760.35, F.S.; authorizing, rather than
   14         requiring, a civil action to commence within a
   15         specified period after an alleged discriminatory
   16         housing practice; authorizing an aggrieved person to
   17         commence a civil action regardless of whether a
   18         specified complaint has been filed and regardless of
   19         the status of any such complaint; prohibiting an
   20         aggrieved person from filing a specified action in
   21         certain circumstances; providing an exception;
   22         prohibiting an aggrieved person from commencing a
   23         specified civil action if an administrative law judge
   24         has commenced a hearing on the record on the
   25         allegation; providing an effective date.
   27  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   29         Section 1. Section 760.07, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   30  read:
   31         760.07 Remedies for unlawful discrimination.—Any violation
   32  of any Florida statute that makes making unlawful discrimination
   33  because of race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, national
   34  origin, age, handicap, or marital status in the areas of
   35  education, employment, housing, or public accommodations gives
   36  rise to a cause of action for all relief and damages described
   37  in s. 760.11(5), unless greater damages are expressly provided
   38  for. If the statute prohibiting unlawful discrimination provides
   39  an administrative remedy, the action for equitable relief and
   40  damages provided for in this section may be initiated only after
   41  the plaintiff has exhausted his or her administrative remedy.
   42  The term “public accommodations” does not include lodge halls or
   43  other similar facilities of private organizations which are made
   44  available for public use occasionally or periodically. The right
   45  to trial by jury is preserved in any case in which the plaintiff
   46  is seeking actual or punitive damages.
   47         Section 2. Subsections (2) and (4) of section 760.34,
   48  Florida Statutes, are amended, and subsections (5) and (6) of
   49  that section are republished, to read:
   50         760.34 Enforcement.—
   51         (2) Any person who files a complaint under subsection (1)
   52  must do so be filed within 1 year after the alleged
   53  discriminatory housing practice occurred. The complaint must be
   54  in writing and shall state the facts upon which the allegations
   55  of a discriminatory housing practice are based. A complaint may
   56  be reasonably and fairly amended at any time. A respondent may
   57  file an answer to the complaint against him or her and, with the
   58  leave of the commission, which shall be granted whenever it
   59  would be reasonable and fair to do so, may amend his or her
   60  answer at any time. Both the complaint and the answer must shall
   61  be verified.
   62         (4) If, within 180 days after a complaint is filed with the
   63  commission or within 180 days after expiration of any period of
   64  reference under subsection (3), the commission has been unable
   65  to obtain voluntary compliance with ss. 760.20-760.37, The
   66  person aggrieved person may commence a civil action in any
   67  appropriate court against the respondent named in the complaint
   68  or petition for an administrative determination pursuant to s.
   69  760.35 to enforce the rights granted or protected by ss. 760.20
   70  760.37 and is not required to petition for an administrative
   71  hearing or exhaust administrative remedies before commencing
   72  such action. If, as a result of its investigation under
   73  subsection (1), the commission finds there is reasonable cause
   74  to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred,
   75  at the request of the person aggrieved, the Attorney General may
   76  bring an action in the name of the state on behalf of the
   77  aggrieved person to enforce the provisions of ss. 760.20-760.37.
   78         (5) In any proceeding brought pursuant to this section or
   79  s. 760.35, the burden of proof is on the complainant.
   80         (6) Whenever an action filed in court pursuant to this
   81  section or s. 760.35 comes to trial, the commission shall
   82  immediately terminate all efforts to obtain voluntary
   83  compliance.
   84         Section 3. Section 760.35, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   85  read:
   86         760.35 Civil actions and relief; administrative
   87  procedures.—
   88         (1) An aggrieved person may commence a civil action shall
   89  be commenced no later than 2 years after an alleged
   90  discriminatory housing practice has occurred. However, the court
   91  shall continue a civil case brought pursuant to this section or
   92  s. 760.34 from time to time before bringing it to trial if the
   93  court believes that the conciliation efforts of the commission
   94  or local agency are likely to result in satisfactory settlement
   95  of the discriminatory housing practice complained of in the
   96  complaint made to the commission or to the local agency and
   97  which practice forms the basis for the action in court. Any
   98  sale, encumbrance, or rental consummated before prior to the
   99  issuance of any court order issued under the authority of ss.
  100  760.20-760.37 and involving a bona fide purchaser, encumbrancer,
  101  or tenant without actual notice of the existence of the filing
  102  of a complaint or civil action under the provisions of ss.
  103  760.20-760.37 is shall not be affected.
  104         (2)An aggrieved person may commence a civil action under
  105  this section regardless of whether a complaint has been filed
  106  under s. 760.34(1) and regardless of the status of any such
  107  complaint. If the commission has obtained a conciliation
  108  agreement with the consent of an aggrieved person under s.
  109  760.36, the aggrieved person may not file any action under this
  110  section regarding the alleged discriminatory housing practice
  111  that forms the basis for the complaint except for the purpose of
  112  enforcing the terms of the conciliation agreement.
  113         (3)An aggrieved person may not commence a civil action
  114  under this section regarding an alleged discriminatory housing
  115  practice if an administrative law judge has commenced a hearing
  116  on the record on the allegation.
  117         (4)(2) If the court finds that a discriminatory housing
  118  practice has occurred, it shall issue an order prohibiting the
  119  practice and providing affirmative relief from the effects of
  120  the practice, including injunctive and other equitable relief,
  121  actual and punitive damages, and reasonable attorney attorney’s
  122  fees and costs.
  123         (5)(a)(3)(a) If the commission is unable to obtain
  124  voluntary compliance with ss. 760.20-760.37 or has reasonable
  125  cause to believe that a discriminatory practice has occurred:
  126         1. The commission may institute an administrative
  127  proceeding under chapter 120; or
  128         2. The person aggrieved may request administrative relief
  129  under chapter 120 within 30 days after receiving notice that the
  130  commission has concluded its investigation under s. 760.34.
  131         (b) Administrative hearings shall be conducted pursuant to
  132  ss. 120.569 and 120.57(1). The respondent must be served written
  133  notice by certified mail. If the administrative law judge finds
  134  that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred or is about
  135  to occur, he or she shall issue a recommended order to the
  136  commission prohibiting the practice and recommending affirmative
  137  relief from the effects of the practice, including quantifiable
  138  damages and reasonable attorney attorney’s fees and costs. The
  139  commission may adopt, reject, or modify a recommended order only
  140  as provided under s. 120.57(1). Judgment for the amount of
  141  damages and costs assessed pursuant to a final order by the
  142  commission may be entered in any court having jurisdiction
  143  thereof and may be enforced as any other judgment.
  144         (c) The district courts of appeal may, upon the filing of
  145  appropriate notices of appeal, review final orders of the
  146  commission pursuant to s. 120.68. Costs or fees may not be
  147  assessed against the commission in any appeal from a final order
  148  issued by the commission under this subsection. Unless
  149  specifically ordered by the court, the commencement of an appeal
  150  does not suspend or stay an order of the commission.
  151         (d) This subsection does not prevent any other legal or
  152  administrative action provided by law.
  153         Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.