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Housing and Worker Justice During COVID-19

Speaker(s): Eric Dunn, Katherine Wutchiett
Recorded on: Apr. 7, 2020
PLI Program #: 299465

Katie is leading the implementation of our Medical-Legal Partnership model in Contra Costa County. She provides free legal services, including representation and technical support, regarding the rights of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, workers struggling with family and medical crises, and pregnant workers and new parents. Katie also advocates to expand workers' rights and provides trainings on rights to leave, accommodations, and wage replacement to health care providers, survivors and advocates.

Katie obtained her J.D., summa cum laude, from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Mo. While in law school, she worked as a law clerk for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, the Service Employees International Union, and Legal Aid at Work. Most recently, she clerked for the Hon. Bobby Shepherd of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Eric Dunn joins the National Housing Law Project as the Director of Litigation. Eric is a national expert on tenants’ rights and consumer law issues. He is known for high-impact advocacy on matters affecting subsidized housing tenants and families struggling to access housing because of criminal and eviction records.  Prior to NHLP, Eric was an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the Northwest Justice Project in Seattle, and the Legal Aid & Defender Association of Detroit.

Some of Eric’s most significant subsidized housing cases include Tina Hendrix v. Seattle Housing Authority and Shepherd v. Weldon Mediation Services, Inc., which both lead to significant improvements in the administrative hearing protections for families facing termination from federally subsidized housing. Another case, Resident Action Council v. Seattle Housing Authority, vindicated the free speech rights of public housing tenants, protecting their right to post signs on their doors and windows. Downtowner Tenants Association v. Seelig stopped the owner of a HUD-subsidized building from raising rents or displacing tenants after the Rent Supplement contract expired, forcing a sale to a new owner who maintained the building as affordable housing.

On rental housing access, Eric’s most important victories include Simmons v. T.M. Associates Management, Inc., which found that a landlord may have a duty to overlook a rental applicant’s disability-related criminal conviction as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. Additionally, in Handlin v. On-Site Manager, Inc., the court upheld a rental applicant’s right to obtain a full and complete disclosure of a tenant-screening report that a landlord obtained about the applicant. Eric also was a lead counsel in Smith v. Wasatch Property Management, Inc., which challenged a landlord’s policy of categorically denying admission to applicants with eviction records, by alleging an unlawful discriminatory effect on African-American women. Smith, which settled in 2017, is believed to be the first fair housing case ever filed based on the discriminatory impact of eviction records.