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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Justice Department Sues Fort Worth, Texas, for Disability Discrimination

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth, Texas, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, charges that Fort Worth discriminated against persons with disabilities based on its treatment of a group home for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, including the city’s failure to grant a reasonable accommodation to the owner of the group home.

The suit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by Fort Worth and requiring Fort Worth to make a reasonable accommodation to permit the continued operation of “Ebby’s Place” as a group home for up to eight individuals with disabilities.  It also seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, as well as payment of a civil penalty.

This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by Ben Patterson, who through Ebby’s Place LLC, owns and operates the group home known as Ebby’s Place. 

“The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act seek to ensure that individuals with disabilities can live in communities of their choice without facing discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “We will continue our vigorous enforcement efforts to make certain that persons with disabilities are granted their rights under federal law.”

“While we appreciate the City’s cooperation with this investigation, its refusal, as a governmental entity, to consider those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction as persons with disabilities is at odds with federal law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.  “Simply put, the residents of Ebby’s Place are deserving of the same protections as persons with any other disability.”

“Through our Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, HUD is working to ensure that housing options for persons with disabilities are not limited by restrictive zoning rules,” said Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department.  The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.  Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities.  Visit www.usdoj.gov/crt for more information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces.  Additional information about the Fair Housing Act is available at www.HUD.gov.  Additional information about the Americans with Disabilities Act is available at www.ADA.gov.

Updated October 15, 2015