A senior living community in Illinois can be sued for failing to protect a resident from anti-gay slurs and other harassment, a federal appeals court has ruled.
Marsha Wetzel moved into Glen Saint Andrew Living Community in Niles, IL, after her partner of 30 years died in 2013. Other residents allegedly berated her for being gay and physically assaulted her for the next 15 months, according to court records. Wetzel claimed staff members at the community originally were unresponsive and eventually retaliated. She sued the community, alleging the operator’s behavior violated the Fair Housing Act.
Attorneys for Saint Andrew sought to dismiss the claim, arguing the issue at stake was resident rudeness. Moreover, attorneys for the community insisted the FHA does not make a landlord liable for failing to stop tenant-on-tenant harassment unless the landlord’s failure to act is due to “discriminatory animus.”
In a statement released Tuesday, the organization said it “strongly denies the factual allegations of the complaint and will present its case in court at the appropriate time.”
“Glen Saint Andrews is committed to providing fair, safe and non-discriminatory housing for its residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex or sexual orientation,” the statement added.
“We read the FHA more broadly” than the trial court, Judge Diane Wood wrote in a decision reinstating the suit.