FHJC and Major Nursing Home Operator Settle Fair Housing Lawsuit
AGREEMENT TO ENSURE DEAF POPULATION HAS 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 defendants 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, alleges 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 Sentosacare LLC, White Plains Center for Nursing Care LLC, Eastchester Rehabilitation and Health Care Center LLC, and Golden Gate Rehabilitation and Health Care Center LLC. and fifteen affiliated nursing home facilities located in the New York City region.
The settlement agreement, so ordered by the Hon. Judge Raymond J. Dearie on March 9, 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 $172,500, including damages and attorney’s fees. Claims against other defendants in the case are still pending.
FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Nursing home operators must provide effective communication for Deaf people and that means making ASL interpreters and/or other auxiliary aids and services available as needed.” Freiberg added that the FHJC will be using some of the funds from this settlement and previous settlements to produce an ASL video on the fair housing rights of Deaf people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The FHJC is represented by Eric Baum and Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP.
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.