A lesbian resident of a skilled care and assisted living home in Illinois can sue the facility for failing to stop her neighbors’ bullying.
That’s according to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling issued Monday, overturning a lower court’s ruling to dismiss the 70-year-old woman’s charges. The case in question relates to Marsha Wetzel, who moved into the Glen Saint Andrew Living Community, in Niles, IL, in 2016. After fellow residents learned that she was gay, they spat at Wetzel, spouted homophobic slurs and physically attacked her, the woman alleged in a 2016 lawsuit.
She claims that complaints to the nursing home fell on deaf ears or were shrugged off. The community has denied those claims, and said this week that it plans to “present its case in court at the appropriate time.”
The Lambda Legal group appealed a lower court’s ruling, and this week, the three-judge panel sided with Wetzel, deeming that landlords can be held accountable for failing to respond to discrimination against residents who are part of a protected class.
“What happened to Marsha was illegal and unconscionable, and the court has now put all landlords on notice that they have an obligation to take action to stop known harassment,” Karen Loewy, Lambda Legal senior counsel and seniors strategist, said in a statement.
The Washington Post notes that the court did not assess the validity of Wetzel’s claims, and this ruling simply allows the case to proceed in District Court. In a statement sent to McKnight’s, Glen Saint Andrew said it “strongly denies the factual allegations of the complaint”
“Glen Saint Andrew Living Community is committed to providing fair, safe and non-discriminatory housing, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex or sexual orientation,” the provider said.
Editor’s note: Although Glen Saint Andrew Living Community provides assisted living and skilled care, a spokesman for the community noted that this court case applies only to independent living residents, such as Marsha Wetzel.