Opening Acts: December 17, 2018

Fair Housing Lawsuits Settled Involving Operators of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

FHJC CASES ACHIEVED SYSTEMIC CHANGE AIMED AT ENSURING DEAF PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO ASL INTERPRETERS AND OTHER AUXILIARY AIDS AND SERVICES

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that a settlement has been reached with the remaining defendants in in a federal lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) in November 2015. The lawsuit, which stemmed from an eight-month systemic testing investigation by the FHJC, alleged that the operators of dozens of nursing homes and assisted living facilities refused to make American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services available to deaf and hard of hearing residents. Though denying the allegations, an agreement to resolve the housing discrimination lawsuit has been reached with Allure Rehabilitation Services LLC, Cassena Care LLC, and Centers for Specialty Care Group, LLC, and 31 affiliated nursing home facilities located in the New York City region.   

The settlement agreement, so ordered by the Hon. Judge Raymond J. Dearie on December 5, 2018 includes extensive injunctive relief, such as:

  • Agreement to not refuse to admit prospective residents because they are deaf and hard of hearing, and to not refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to obtain auxiliary services, including ASL interpreters, when appropriate for effective communication;
  • Adoption of policies and procedures that will ensure deaf and hard of hearing people have access to ASL interpreters or other auxiliary services as needed to provide effective communication when appropriate;
  • Training for key facility staff on the legal rights of deaf persons under fair housing and other civil rights laws as well as sensitivity issues and best practices for working with deaf and hard of hearing persons; and
  • Agreement to maintain and make available specific records over several years for review by the FHJC to document efforts made to comply with the terms of the settlements.

The settlement agreement also includes monetary relief totaling $245,675, including damages and attorney’s fees.

The settlements FHJC reached with all defendants in this federal lawsuit and in a similar case filed in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) ensures that deaf and hard-of-hearing people will have access to ASL services and other auxiliary aids and services as a reasonable accommodation in 61 nursing homes and 35 assisted living facilities in the New York City region. The settlement agreements reached with the defendants in these two cases also yielded a total monetary recovery of nearly $1.2 million in damages and attorney’s fees.

FHJC President Robert Martin stated, “We are pleased with the outcomes in these cases.  They demonstrate that, when fair housing laws are vigorously enforced, it is possible to create broad systemic changes within an industry and make housing opportunities available to populations that have been excluded or treated unfairly.”

As a result of these settlements, the FHJC also created a short ASL educational video called “A Home for Henry” about the fair housing rights of deaf and hard of hearing populations in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The FHJC hopes that this educational resource will encourage deaf people to exercise their fair housing rights.

The FHJC is represented by Eric Baum and Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, who issued the following statement: “Our firm is proud of the cutting-edge work that Fair Housing Justice Center has done to effectuate meaningful change and access for the deaf community not only in New York City but throughout the country. Through the work of the FHJC, deaf individuals will now have full communication access to nursing homes and assisted living facilities where they have previously been turned away. Eisenberg & Baum is honored to have the opportunity to be part of this ground-breaking litigation.”

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.