Leisure Care will expand staff training and pay $162,500 in damages, attorneys’ fees and other costs to settle a lawsuit that alleged that the company violated the rights of people who are deaf or hard of hearing by not providing American Sign Language interpreters and not paying for interpreter services, and for steering of families of prospective residents who are deaf or hard of hearing to other senior living communities.
The National Fair Housing Alliance, which had filed lawsuits in May against Leisure Care and several other senior living operators, announced the settlement with the company on Thursday. The NFHA said the implementation of the terms of the agreement will result in expanded housing options for older adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The lawsuit against Leisure Care was based on investigations conducted by the NFHA in New Mexico and Utah, but the settlement agreement will be implemented companywide.
“Leisure Care has always been committed to providing equal access to the top-tier retirement and assisted living services we provide in our communities. Our communities thrive on the activity and engagement of our seniors, and that is driven by a commitment to inclusion for everyone,” Leisure Care partner and Executive Vice President Greg Clark told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Expanding the policy training with our staff is a step we take wholeheartedly to ensure that this happens in all of our communities, and the reason we are taking the initiatives outlined in this agreement company-wide.”
Also as part of the settlement, the NFHA said, the company will adopt an affirmative non-discrimination policy to 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; and develop marketing and communications materials making it clear that Leisure Care serves people in all protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.
“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,” NFHA President and CEO Lisa Rice said.