Brokerage BHS Appeals Orders To Pay Agent $977K For Discrimination

Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons seeks to overturn rulings awarding Shauncy Claud nearly $1 million after a court found the firm wrongfully fired her for filing a discrimination complaint.

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Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons is asking a higher court to overturn rulings awarding a real estate agent nearly $1 million after a federal court found the prominent real estate brokerage wrongfully fired her for filing a discrimination complaint.

On March 11, BHSH filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit contesting a ruling by Judge Nina R. Morrison of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Morrison’s Feb. 28 ruling ordered BHSH to pay agent Shauncy Claud $801,113.14 after finding that she was entitled to compensatory and punitive damages because BHSH violated an anti-discrimination law when the firm retaliated against her for complaining of racial discrimination by a supervisor.

Shauncy Claud

Claud was the only Black agent associated with BHSH when she joined the six-office brokerage in November 2016. She filed a complaint in March 2018 alleging she was terminated in June 2017 in retaliation for a complaint she made to the firm two weeks before she was fired.

In June, Morrison awarded Claud $787,896.68, which included compensatory damages for back pay and emotional distress and $200,000 in punitive damages. With interest, the damages award comes to $801,113.14. In her ruling, Morrison acknowledged that Claud, as an independent contractor, could have been fired for any non-discriminatory reason, but found that “BHSH’s proffered reason for Claud’s termination was wholly pretextual,” attempting to cover up retaliation against a protected activity: complaining of racial discrimination by a supervisor.

In addition, on Jan. 23, Morrison awarded Claud $170,065 in attorney’s fees and $6,067.69 in expenses, adding up to $176,132.69. BHSH appealed that order on Feb. 23. Combined with the damages award, BHSH will have to fork over $977,245.83 — nearly $1 million — if its appeals are unsuccessful.

Claud’s experience is notable in part for where it took place. In 2019, Long Island newspaper Newsday released a groundbreaking, three-year investigation that revealed widespread agent bias against consumers of color in the region. Brown Harris Stevens was not one of the 12 brokerages included in that study.

In June, Claud told Inman she’d like to see “more of a diverse presence within these real estate brokerages and at all levels, not just agents, but management levels and executive levels and higher up” and believed more minority representation at brokerages would lead to less discrimination against consumers.

Inman has reached out to Claud and BHSH parent company Brown Harris Stevens for comment and will update this story if and when responses are received.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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