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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

United States Settles Disability Discrimination Case Involving Residents of a Continuing Care Retirement Community

The United States announced today the filing of a consent order that resolves allegations that Fort Norfolk Retirement Community Inc. (Fort Norfolk) violated the Fair Housing Act by instituting policies that discriminated against residents with disabilities at Harbor’s Edge, a continuing care retirement community in Norfolk, Virginia.

The consent order, which still needs to be approved by the court, was filed yesterday, along with a complaint, in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.  The complaint alleges that beginning in May 2011, Fort Norfolk instituted a series of policies that prohibited, and then limited, residents in the assisted living, nursing and memory support units at Harbor’s Edge from dining in dining rooms or attending community events with independent living residents.  The complaint also alleges that when residents and family members complained about these policies, Fort Norfolk retaliated against them.  In addition, the complaint alleges that Fort Norfolk had polices that discriminated against residents who used motorized wheelchairs by requiring those residents to pay a non-refundable fee, obtain liability insurance and obtain Fort Norfolk’s permission.

Under the consent order, Fort Norfolk will pay $350,000 into a settlement fund to compensate residents and family members who were harmed by these policies.  Fort Norfolk will also pay a $40,000 civil penalty to the United States.  In addition, Fort Norfolk will appoint a Fair Housing Act compliance officer and will implement a new dining and events policy, a new reasonable accommodation policy and a new motorized wheelchair policy.

“This consent order will ensure that all residents with disabilities at Harbor’s Edge are treated equally and that spouses and friends will be able to eat and socialize together,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “We are very pleased with Fort Norfolk’s willingness to work with us to achieve this important resolution.” 

Individuals who are entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the consent order.  Persons who believe they were subjected to unlawful discrimination at Harbor’s Edge should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox #5 or e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status.  More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.  Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or through its website at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp.

Updated August 5, 2015