- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The state labor agency has sued a weekly Junction City newspaper over a rental ad that prohibited families with children.

The lawsuit filed against The Tribune News is seeking $59,500 in damages, The Register-Guard reported (https://bit.ly/1fgnHs0).

The ad, which ran once each in 2010 and 2011, offered a three-bedroom apartment above a funeral home. In addition to the usual information about the property and rent, the ad said, “No minor children, no pets, no smoking.”

State law prohibits the housing discrimination on the basis of family status. A mother of two saw the ad and complained to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

The suit claims that the newspaper’s current co-publisher bought the newspaper after the ad first ran.

After the ad’s first appearance, the labor bureau filed an administrative complaint alleging that it was discriminatory. In response, the newspaper’s manager sent the agency a letter saying the paper’s ownership had changed since the ad appeared, the suit says.

But the suit claims that when an investigator for the agency contacted the manager, she said, “What kind of a parent would want their child living in a funeral home with dead bodies?”

About a month later, the ad appeared for the second time with the same wording.

The suit claims that when confronted with the ad, co-publisher Stephen Rowland told a state investigator he believed children should not be living above a funeral home.

The suit also claims that Rowland later told the labor bureau that the newspaper had no system for reviewing advertising to ensure it complied with antidiscrimination laws.

The lawsuit alleges that the newspaper ran discriminatory advertising, assisted another in violating the Fair Housing Act, and attempted to discourage the sale of rental housing. The suit seeks $11,000 for each of those three alleged violations plus $25,000 in compensatory damages and $1,500 in actual damages.

No trial date has been set.

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