FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2020
Contact: Izzy Woodruff | 202-898-1661 | IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
National Fair Housing Alliance Reaches Settlement in Disability Discrimination Case against Leisure Care, LLC
Leisure Care, which operates senior living facilities in New Mexico and Utah, was sued by NFHA in May for violating the rights of people who are deaf or hard of hearing
Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced a settlement agreement with Leisure Care, LLC (Leisure Care), a privately-held retirement and assisted living company that owns, manages, and develops over 40 facilities in several states including New Mexico and Utah. The terms of the agreement will help expand housing options for seniors who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“Discriminatory treatment by housing providers is just one of the many obstacles faced by individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Such treatment, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, precludes equal access to housing opportunities, which is particularly dangerous now as the nation grapples with a worsening COVID-19 pandemic that has made sheltering in place a requirement for staying safe,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA. “Today’s settlement with Leisure Care, which requires the company to update its policies, marketing and communications materials, and training to prevent discrimination, is a much-needed step in the right direction,” Rice added.
Investigations conducted in New Mexico and Utah by NFHA uncovered several alleged examples of discrimination including flat refusal to provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, failure to pay for interpreter services, and steering of the families of prospective residents who are deaf or hard of hearing to other senior living facilities. As a result, Leisure Care was among several companies sued by NFHA for disability discrimination earlier this year.
As part of the settlement agreement announced today, Leisure Care will adopt an Affirmative Non-Discrimination Policy that prevents discrimination against current or prospective residents based on auditory or other disabilities under the Fair Housing Act; create a reasonable accommodation request form that will allow current and prospective residents to request auxiliary aids and services, such as ASL interpreters; develop marketing and communications materials making it clear that Leisure Care serves persons in all protected classes under the Fair Housing Act; and conduct employee training about legal issues concerning those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or in other protected classes. In addition, Leisure Care must pay $162,500 in damages, attorneys’ fees, and other costs. While NFHA’s allegations of discrimination by Leisure Care were limited to its New Mexico and Utah facilities, the settlement agreement will be implemented companywide.
“This agreement sends a clear reminder to all senior living companies that they are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations, free of charge, to people who are deaf or hard of hearing unless doing so would place an undue financial hardship on the company,” Rice said. She added, “This is the only way to ensure that housing is actually accessible to all people and not just a select few.”
NFHA’s work on this case was made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. NFHA was primarily represented by Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, and Jared Allebest of Allebest Law Group PLLC as co-counsel for the Utah complaint.
About The National Fair Housing Alliance
Founded in 1988, NFHA is a consortium of more than 200 private, nonprofit fair housing organizations and state and local civil rights agencies from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NFHA works to eliminate housing discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, outreach, membership services, public policy initiatives, community development, advocacy, and enforcement.