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False Assumptions and Stereotypes Alleged in FHJC Complaint

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

June 14, 2024

FHJC ALLEGES THAT ADULT CARE FACILITIES DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WHEELCHAIR USERS

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit in the United States District Court Southern District of New York (SDNY) against the owners and operators of multiple Adult Care Facilities (ACFs) that provide housing and services to New Yorkers with disabilities. The named Defendants are Harbor View Senior Living Residence LLC, Amber Court of Brooklyn, LLC Lakehaven Equities Inc, Judith Lyn Home for Adults LLC, Amber Court of Westbury II LLC, and Amber Court @ Suffolk County LLC.  

In 2023, the FHJC began an investigation into Defendants’ facilities, assigning testers to pose as family members seeking admission information for their relatives who use wheelchairs. Through its investigation, the FHJC collected evidence showing that Defendants apply a blanket policy of turning away prospective residents who use wheelchairs while allowing other prospective residents to apply. 

Instead of conducting an individualized determination of eligibility assessment or providing a reasonable accommodation, Defendants told testers whose relatives use wheelchairs to look elsewhere for housing and services or failed to follow-up after promising they would. In contrast, testers whose relatives did not use wheelchairs could proceed with Defendants’ ACF application process.   

The complaint alleges that Defendants’ blanket discrimination against and exclusion of prospective residents who use wheelchairs (including manual and motorized) violates the Fair Housing Act (FHA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

The full complaint can be read HERE. 

“Blanket policies that treat wheelchair users as a monolith, while allowing all other prospective residents to proceed with residential application processes, constitutes disability discrimination,” shared Cass Sicherer, FHJC’s Disability Justice and Accessibility Legal Fellow. “Owners and operators of ACFs cannot rely on false assumptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities in the creation of their policies. They must treat all prospective residents equally.”  

The FHJC is represented in this lawsuit by Lisa E. Cleary, Lachlan Campbell-Verduyn, Joyce L. Nadipuram, and Saniya Suri with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, and Jota Borgmann and Kevin M. Cremin with Mobilization for Justice 

“The Defendants’ policies unlawfully deny opportunity for equal access to housing to individuals with disabilities. This action seeks to eradicate systemic discrimination by the owners and operators of these adult care facilities,” stated Lisa E. Cleary, a partner at Patterson Belknap and co-counsel for FJHC.“While professing to the public and regulators that they exist to serve disabled New Yorkers, Defendants have implemented blanket policies to refuse admission to people who use wheelchairs because of their wheelchair use.” 

Jota Borgmann of Mobilization for Justice, co-counsel for FHJC, added, “Discrimination against people who use wheelchairs has been pervasive in assisted living in New York State and it’s very harmful to the people who most need this kind of housing with services. We hope housing providers and consumers alike take note that disability discrimination has no place in assisted living.”  

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 enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.