In a decision issued on April 22, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has determined that rules providing for sex-segregating swimming schedules (separate women-only and men-only times) violate the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
In 2016, the 55+ age-restricted community, A Country Place Condominium Association, in Lakewood, NJ, adopted rules for the use of its community pool, which designated certain hours when only members of a single sex were allowed to swim. This was done, according to the case, to accommodate the approximately 2/3rds population of Orthodox Jews living in the association and the Orthodox Jewish principle of modesty. This principle means that the Orthodox residents are not supposed to swim at a time when members of the opposite sex might be present. According to the decision, men’s swim time encompassed 32.5 hours per week while 33.5 hours were allocated to women’s swims. Only 25 hours were open to mixed swims, of which 13 hours were on Saturdays when Orthodox residents would not swim due to the Jewish Sabbath.
Three individuals (“plaintiffs”) who challenged these rules were found in violation and fined by the association. They filed a complaint in federal court alleging violations of the FHA and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. After discovery in the trial court, both the plaintiffs and the association filed motions for summary judgment. The District Court ruled in favor of the defendant association because it found that “the gender-segregated schedule applies to men and women equally.” The plaintiffs appealed.