“Political Affiliation” is not a protected class under Code of Ethics

A Memo from Katie Johnson, General Counsel and Chief Member Experience Officer, National Association of REALTORS®.

While we may not have anticipated starting the new year with such historical unrest and political divisiveness, our experiences this past year have taught us that we can navigate any challenge that comes our way!

As always, our job as servant leaders is to foster an environment of trust by and among members so that we can all remain focused on our shared mission of preserving, protecting, and advancing the right to real property for all people. Now is a good time to remind members that REALTORS® are the purple party representing and supporting both Republicans and Democrats who act in furtherance of our mission. As demanded by the Golden Rule which underlies our Code of Ethics – we must honor all people, treating everyone with civility, respect, and even kindness. As leaders, REALTORS® are looked upon to set the example for others in their communities and association executives are looked upon by REALTORS® to show them how. Thank you for subscribing to these ideals of integrity and respect for diverse viewpoints that the NAR Leadership Team shares as well.

We know you're receiving many inquiries about the insurrection and potential application of the Code of Ethics to the events of January 6th, so we offer the following as potential talking points you could use when responding to those inquiries.

  • The National Association of Realtors® shares your sentiments of discouragement and disillusion as we witnessed the tragedy unfold on Capitol Hill. We pledge to you that NAR is committed to doing everything we can to help heal and stabilize this nation in what is one of the most shocking and saddening weeks of our lifetime.
  • The National Association of Realtors® stands with our democracy and our nation's centuries-old observance of peaceful protests and the peaceful transfer of power. What happened on Wednesday, January 6 was an assault on both. NAR encourages anyone with information regarding unlawful behavior to report those violations to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at fbi.gov/USCapitol. We stand with federal law enforcement as they work to thoroughly investigate the events of January 6th and ensure all those accused of breaking the law are prosecuted to the fullest extent.
  • Local REALTOR® associations have the privilege and responsibility for enforcing the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Any complaints of violations of NAR's Code of Ethics should be reported to and will be managed by local associations. Local association hearing panels are charged with determining whether speech or conduct alleged in a complaint violates the Code of Ethics. Complaints are processed in accordance with the legally-sound and longstanding procedures set forth in NAR's Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual available here.
  • You can find a graphic that explains the Code of Ethics enforcement process here. In particular, Step 3 explains that if a complaint is filed, it is initially reviewed by a local association's Grievance Committee. The purpose of that initial review is to evaluate the complaint against eight criteria, including whether the complaint was timely filed, and whether the allegations in the complaint, if taken as true, would possibly violate the Code.
  • In general, the Code of Ethics does not apply to criminal activity and we recommend that such activity be reported to local law enforcement.
  • Code of Ethics Article 10 as interpreted by the new Standard of Practice 10-5 prohibits REALTORS® from using harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. When evaluating a complaint, a grievance committee will assess whether the alleged conduct qualifies as (1) harassing speech, hate speech, an epithet or slur AND (2) such speech is based on a protected class listed above. Notably, "political affiliation" is not a protected class under Article 10. More information on this important ethical obligation is available here and training videos for properly administering complaints under Article 10 are available here.

We hope you find this useful. Please continue to share your feedback and experiences with us and with your colleagues in this forum.

Best regards,
Katie Johnson