Opening Acts: October 14, 2016

Fair Housing Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Deaf Elderly People Resolved

Agreements Ensure Access to Auxiliary Services including American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters at Assisted Living and Nursing Home Facilities  

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that four operators of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have settled a lawsuit filed in federal court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in November 2015.  The lawsuit, based on an eight-month testing investigation conducted by the FHJC, alleged that the defendants refused to make American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services available to Deaf persons.  While denying these allegations, the three nursing home operators Archcare/Catholic Managed Long Term Care, Inc., Jewish Home Lifecare, and Elant, along with assisted living provider Atria Senior Living, Inc. entered into separate agreements to settle the lawsuit.

The settlement agreements contain some common injunctive relief including:

  • Agreement not to 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 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 a period of years for review by the FHJC to document efforts made to comply with the terms of the settlements.

The settlements were so-ordered by the Hon. Judge Paul A. Engelmayer in August, September and early October.  The injunctive relief applies to a total of 12 nursing home facilities and 16 assisted living residences operated by the defendants and located in the FHJC service area.  In addition to the injunctive relief, the FHJC obtained a total monetary recovery of $495,000 including damages and attorney’s fees.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “We are very pleased that the defendants in this case agreed to negotiate a resolution to ensure that Deaf and Hard of Hearing populations have access to assisted living and nursing home facilities in the New York City region.”  The FHJC will work with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to provide a quality training program to key personnel in the 28 facilities covered by the agreements.  The FHJC is also planning to use a portion of the settlement funds to produce and distribute a video on the fair housing rights of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing persons in assisted living and nursing home facilities.

The FHJC was represented by Eric Baum and Andrew Rozynski with the law firm of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP.  A separate lawsuit filed by the FHJC in the Eastern District of New York is still pending.  That lawsuit alleges that seven operators of nursing homes and assisted living facilities refused to make ASL interpreter services available to Deaf prospective residents.

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


Fair Housing Justice Center Moves to Queens

FHJC Moves to Newly Renovated Office Building in Long Island City  

As of October 17, 2016, the new address for the FHJC will be 30-30 Northern Blvd., Suite #302, Long Island City, NY 11101.   After eleven years at 5 Hanover Square in Manhattan, the new and larger office space in Queens has been designed to meet the needs of FHJC’s program.  FHJC’s phone number, (212) 400-8201, will not change.