Assisted living operator agrees to pay $162,500 to settle discrimination allegations

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Assisted living operator agrees to pay $162,500 to settle discrimination allegations
Assisted living operator agrees to pay $162,500 to settle discrimination allegations

The parent company of an assisted living community operator has agreed to pay $162,500 to settle a lawsuit filed in November 2015 that alleged that four of its managed communities in New York discriminated against the deaf by not providing American Sign Language interpreters when requested, the New York City-focused Fair Housing Justice Center has announced.

Ultimate Assisted Living Management, a division of the Engel Burman Group, based in Garden City, NY, will pay $86,500, and each of the four communities involved in the settlement will pay $19,000, according to the settlement agreement, approved in mid-April in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The FHJC announced the settlement May 5.

The defense attorney in the case told McKnight's Senior Living that he had no comment on the settlement. According to legal documents obtained by McKnight's Senior Living, the defendants, while denying wrongdoing, voluntarily settled the case “as a compromise to avoid the cost and uncertainty of litigation.”

In addition to providing the monetary relief, the entities agreed that they would, among other actions:

  • Provide a reasonable accommodation to enable prospective residents, residents and resident companions to obtain auxiliary services, including sign language interpreters, when appropriate.
  • Update community signage and corporate and community websites, admissions applications, sales brochures and residency agreements to inform prospective residents and residents of compliance with fair housing laws and the availability of auxiliary services such as sign language interpreters;
  • Train key community staff members on the legal rights of deaf people under fair housing and other civil rights laws, and train them on sensitivity issues and best practices for working with deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
  • Maintain and make available specific records over several years for review by the FHJC to document efforts to comply with the terms of the settlement.

The four communities involved in the settlement do business as The Bristal at White Plains, The Bristal at North Woodmere, The Bristal at Sayville and The Bristal at Armonk. The terms of the settlement also apply to nine other communities that operate under the Bristal name.

The FHJC said it filed the lawsuit after an eight-month investigation. That investigation, the center told McKnight's Senior Living, is the same one that resulted in an October settlement in which Atria Senior Living agreed to pay $185,000 and undertake similar actions at 16 of its assisted living communities.

Several nursing home operators also have reached settlements with the center following the investigation. Claims against other defendants remain pending.

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