Justice Department Settles Disability Rights Case With National Provider Of Retirement Housing

Friday, August 24, 2007 General News
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 The Justice Departmenttoday announced that it has reached an agreement resolving a lawsuit againstChicago-based Covenant Retirement Communities Inc. and its subsidiaries. Thecomplaint alleged that this nationwide provider of retirement housing violatedthe Fair Housing Act by discriminating against residents based on disability.

According to the United States' complaint, the defendants employedpolicies that required residents who used motorized mobility aids (e.g.,canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters) to obtain personal liabilityinsurance, demonstrate their competence at operating the motorized aid, andprovide physicians' certifications of need. The defendants also barredresidents and visitors from using mobility aids in certain common areas,including dining rooms, and steered persons with mobility impairments fromindependent living to assisted living.

"This agreement will ensure that residents with disabilities are notdenied equal access to their housing communities," said Wan J. Kim, AssistantAttorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department willcontinue its vigorous enforcement of all the fair housing laws."

The facilities that were employing these policies are: Covenant Village ofTurlock, Turlock, Cal.; Mount Miguel Covenant Village, Spring Valley, Cal.;The Samarkand, Santa Barbara, Cal.; Covenant Village of Colorado, Westminster,Colo.; Covenant Village of Golden Valley, Golden Valley, Minn.; CovenantShores, Mercer Island, Wash.; Covenant Village of Cromwell, Cromwell, Conn.;Covenant Village of Florida, Plantation, Fla.; Covenant Village of the GreatLakes, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Covenant Village of Northbrook, Northbrook, Ill.;The Holmstad, Batavia, Ill.; Windsor Park Manor, Carol Stream, Ill.; BethanyCovenant Village, Minneapolis, Minn.; Covenant Home of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.;and Irvington Village, Portland, Ore.

The agreement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for theEastern District of California, dismantles those policies and calls foremployee training, a nondiscrimination policy, record keeping, and monitoring.Additionally, defendants will establish a $530,000 settlement fund for personswho may have been injured by their policies and pay each resident who wastested $250 (and such additional damages as they may have suffered).

The case originated when a retired couple filed discrimination complaintswith the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUDconducted an investigation and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Persons with disabilities who believe they may have been injured by theviolations at one of the facilities should call 1-800-896-7743, ext. 5 or seehttp://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/notices.htm to determine how they can file aclaim for monetary damages.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based onrace, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status.Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed230 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 105 of which have allegeddiscrimination based on disability. More information about the Civil RightsDivision and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housingdiscrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743),email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact the U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

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