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andrewjohnsonYou could ask almost any auctioneer who practices in the real property area.

He or she would say that it is illegal in the United States to discriminate based on race, color or ancestry in regard to real property transactions.

These auctioneers might even cite the 1866 Civil Rights Act.

The 1987 Supreme Court of the United States case Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb 481 U.S. 615 (1987) added ancestry to the original vague racial and color categories.

In fact, Federal law now also prohibits discrimination in real property transactions (with some exceptions) based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status. These prohibitions are part of the Federal Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.)

However, most don’t realize that the 1866 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in commerce based on either race, color or ancestry involving real and/or personal property, without any exceptions.

What does this mean for auctioneers? Auctioneers cannot deny any person based on race or ancestry from:

  • Entering or participating in any public auction
  • Obtaining a bid number or registering at any public auction
  • Bidding at any public auction
  • Buying at any public auction
  • Taking possession and title as a result of a public auction

Basically six categories are used for race classification in the Unites States: White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander. Color could mean any particular skin color or shade. There are 100’s of ancestry categories which indicates more so the country or region of origin of parents or grandparents.

Why would we be discussing this topic? Quite frankly because of its importance and significance, it really can’t be discussed enough. And I’m glad to report that almost all auctioneers allow anyone of any race, color or ancestry to participate in any real or personal property public auction.

Further, in a short conversation the other day, I was able to enlighten a fellow auctioneer who told me these equal protections only applied to his “real estate auctions, and not my (his) personal property auctions.”

The possible penalties for violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866 are three-fold:

  • Injunction: A court might mandate a defendant to do or refrain from doing a particular act. For instance, a court could order property sold to the plaintiff who was discriminated against.
  • Compensatory damages: Such damages payable to a plaintiff could include reimbursement for expenses causes by the discrimination. As well, damages can include payment for emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages: These damages have no statutory limit, and are awarded to plaintiffs to punish the wrongdoer as well as to discourage others from similar acts.

Treating people the same in commerce regardless of their race and ancestry is a basic human right in the Unites States, regardless of what is being sold.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.