Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lawsuit Highlights Discrimination Against LGBT Seniors

Can elderly LGBT residents of senior living centers sue over discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation?

A recently filed federal lawsuit accuses managers of a residence for seniors of turning a blind eye toward mistreatment of one of its lesbian residents.  

The 69-year-old plaintiff had moved into the senior living facility after her partner of 30 years succumbed to cancer. When residents learned that she was gay, she was subjected to insults and physical abuse.

Lawsuit Could Change How Senior Living Centers Treat Gay and Transgender Residents

According to papers filed in her lawsuit, the management failed to protect the plaintiff even after she was shoved, spat upon, and assaulted. Administrators allegedly not only failed to protect her but also retaliated against her because of her complaints and tried to get her evicted.

If it succeeds, the litigation will have established the legal principle that housing facilities must act to protect elderly residents from harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Even if it fails, it has exposed a widespread yet often-ignored problem -- discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors, particularly in long-term care settings.

Surveys Reveal Nationwide Mistreatment of LGBT Seniors in Housing

One survey by Justice in Aging showed that LGBT residents in communal housing facilities for seniors feared discrimination by housing staff. It also reported on hundreds of accounts of incidents in which seniors were harassed or denied services or care because of their sexual orientation.

Another study showed that LGBT applicants to senior living facilities had suffered discriminatory practices that included more onerous application requirements, less availability of housing, fewer amenities in housing offered, and higher prices.

Guidelines for How Housing Providers Should Treat Elderly LGBT Residents and Applicants

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage and other advances in LGBT rights, many providers of housing for seniors have not adapted to changing times.  

One LGBT rights organization, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders), has created a program to certify that senior housing communities are L.G.B.T.-friendly and offers a training program to show centers the steps they need to take to earn this credential.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued rules banning sex-based discrimination by housing providers that receive HUD funds or loans from the Federal Housing Authority. HUD has also provided standards for weighing harassment complaints in administrative proceedings or in court

If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your status as an LGBT senior, your legal rights may have been violated. An experienced elder law attorney can help you determine whether a senior living center or long term care facility has acted illegally and can help you get the fair treatment and compensation you deserve.

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