The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Valley Club, a former swimming facility located in Huntingdon Valley, Pa, resolving allegations that the company discriminated against persons because of race. The Justice Department’s investigation was conducted under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin and religion in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants and places of entertainment.
The settlement agreement, which must be approved by the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also resolves A.B., et al. v. The Valley Club of Huntingdon Valley, PA , a private suit filed by the children and their families, as well as discrimination claims filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The Chief Magistrate Judge of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania approved the settlement agreement after formal mediation efforts. The department investigated this matter jointly with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
In January 2010, the department filed a complaint following an incident at the Valley Club in June 2009. Creative Steps Inc. a Northeast Philadelphia children’s day camp, had paid the club a fee to give its campers access to the club’s swimming pool for the summer. On the first day they swam, the children reported hearing racial slurs while enjoying the pool. On July 3, 2009, the club refunded the day camp’s membership fee and prohibited the children from returning to swim.
“No one may be denied the right to use a swimming pool because of their race or the color of their skin,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to protect vigorously the rights of persons of all races to be free from discrimination in public accommodations across the country.”
Valley Club filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection in November 2009. The club property was sold in June 2010 for $1,460,000. The settlement agreement stipulates that once the administration of the estate and the bankruptcy case is closed and after paying allowed costs and fees, the remaining assets will be paid to more than 50 children, their camp counselors and to Creative Steps.
“This settlement provides significant opportunity to children who were denied an opportunity based on their skin color,” said JoAnn Edwards, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. “Our hope is that this case serves as prevention for years to come and a reminder that discrimination is illegal, and has no place in Pennsylvania.”
The settlement also provides that $65,000 will be set aside from the proceeds of the sale of the Valley Club property for the creation of a leadership council that comprises former Valley Club members, Creative Steps counselors, campers and their families. The children and families affected by the Valley Club incident will take leadership roles in planning swimming, educational and recreational opportunities for the community.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt . Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful discrimination in public accommodations may contact the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at (202) 514-4713.