Assisted living operators settle disability discrimination lawsuit

LONDON: Four assisted living communities have reached a settlement with a housing group over allegations of discrimination against people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users.

Elm York of East Haven, NY; Madison York Assisted Living Community of Flushing, NY; Madison York Rego Park in Rego Park, NY; and Village Housing Development Fund of New York, NY, (also known as VillageCare) reached a settlement — subject to court approval — with the Fair Housing Justice Center, a Queens, NY-based nonprofit civil rights organization.

The agreement, announced by FHJC, requires the operators to end their reportedly discriminatory practices against individuals with mobility impairments and provide equal access to housing and services. The operators also must pay damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

The case stemmed from complaints by residents of the adult care facilities about discrimination against people using wheelchairs. One former resident, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, reportedly was prohibited from returning to her home of five years and threatened with eviction after she began using a wheelchair.

Undercover testing investigations by FHJC alleged that the four state licensed and Medicaid-funded facilities denied applicants and evicted residents using wheelchairs. FHJC also asserted that New York State promoted disability discrimination through its regulations and policies, including a policy permitting facilities to ban wheelchair users from admission.

The York facilities agreed to pay the FHJC $317,500 for damages, attorneys’ fees and costs. VillageCare will pay $287,000 in damages, fees and costs, and will pay $112,993 to the estate of Jane Doe.

The settlement comes on the heels of a similar agreement FHJC reached on Dec. 17 against the operator of an assisted living program in East Harlem, Vista on 5th Corporation.