Senior living operator agrees to settle landmark transgender discrimination case

Transgender flag. (Credit: Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images)

A Maine seniors’ residence operator will adopt a comprehensive non-discrimination policy and provide cultural competency training to staff members under a settlement in the nation’s first known discrimination case filed by a transgender adult. against a long-term care community.

Adult Family Care Homes of Maine has reached a settlement with the Maine Human Rights Commission after one of its communities – Sunrise Assisted Living in Jonesport, ME – was found guilty of violating protections of non- state discrimination in denying Marie King, a transgender woman, a room due to her sexual orientation.

John Hamer, an attorney representing Sunrise, said the community “is pleased to be working with GLAD [GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders] improve its policies and procedures to ensure it provides a welcoming environment” for all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Hamer described the situation with King as “miscommunication.” The complaint, he said, was based on a short conversation between a social worker and a Sunrise employee. He said King never applied for residency.

“The social worker had a short conversation with Sunrise Assisted Living where Ms. King was discussed, and the question was raised of what would happen if Ms. King was assigned to share a room with someone who was not home. comfortable having a transgender roommate,” Hamer shared in a statement to McKnight Senior Residence, adding that the social worker inferred that Sunrise would not be a suitable place for King. “However, Sunrise Assisted Living would not have denied Ms. King residency based on her transgender status had she applied for residency.”

Hamer said Sunrise is “pleased to work with GLAD to improve its existing policies and provide training to ensure such miscommunication doesn’t happen again.”

In a joint statement, Adult Family Care Homes of Maine and GLAD expressed their hope that the positive resolution “will lead long-term care facilities across the country to adopt policies that ensure that transgender seniors, indeed all people elderly, will be treated with dignity and respect.”

In addition to SAGECare’s policy and employee training, the company will also post a transgender non-discrimination statement on its website.

“SAGECare, which has trained more than 100,000 long-term care facility staff across the country in LGBTQ+ cultural competency, will give AFCH the tools it needs to create more inclusive and welcoming communities. “Aaron Tax, director of advocacy at LGBT Elder Advocacy and service organization SAGE, says McKnight Senior Residence.

AFCH operates Sunrise and eight other senior communities in the state. The Maine Human Rights Commission said in March it found evidence of violations of the state’s non-discrimination protections when Sunrise denied King a room as a transgender woman.

As McKnight Senior Residence previously reported, GLAD filed a complaint with the commission on behalf of the woman last fall.

GLAD attorney Chris Erchull said the settlement resolves the “profound harm” King suffered by “being turned away because of who she is.”

“Anyone who needs access to a long-term care facility, including transgender people, should be welcomed with dignity, compassion and respect,” Erchull said in a statement. “The Model Transgender Non-Discrimination Policy and Public Statement Encompassing Transgender Residents provides a clear example of how these facilities can and should operate with respect to transgender seniors.”

GLAD said the US Department of Health and Human Services is still investigating whether Sunrise violated the sex discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

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