On Wednesday, the City of Baton Rouge approved an agreement with Oxford House, Inc., Danjean Causeway, LLC and Glenda and Raymond Roy to settle a 2011 federal complaint of disability discrimination against the City. The agreement settles all matters on appeal and requires the City to pay $240,000 in attorneys fees to plaintiffs, who operate group home for people with disabilities. In a separate agreement, the City previously agreed to pay Plaintiffs’ damages.
Previously, the Honorable Judge James Brady, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana granted a temporary restraining order enjoining the City of Baton Rouge from enforcing its “two (2) unrelated persons residing in an A-I zone” prohibition against two Oxford House, Inc. homes. In March 2013, Judge Brady granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in the case, finding that that the City of Baton Rouge violated the Fair Housing Act and American with Disabilities Act. In August of this year, Judge Brady ordered that the City be permanently enjoined from enforcing the prohibition against group homes operating as Oxford Houses. The City subsequently appealed the order. This week’s settlement resolves the appeal.
In 2011, the City of Baton Rouge notified and then filed suit in state court against the owners of two Oxford Houses in Baton Rouge claiming that the houses were in violation of the City’s Unified Development Code because more than two unrelated persons were living in a single-family home zoned as A-1. Oxford House, with the assistance of Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), filed a fair housing complaint and lawsuit against the City after the City denied multiple reasonable accommodation requests from Oxford House in relation to the two properties. Under the Fair Housing Act, residents of Oxford Houses are considered to be people with disabilities.
Oxford House, Inc. is a nation-wide network of group homes for persons recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. All Oxford Houses adhere to three major concepts: they are financially self-supporting, democratically run, and evict any resident that returns to active substance use. Individual Oxford Houses create a family atmosphere to allow residents to benefit from the therapeutic support of their peers in helping them stay clean and sober and recover from their addictions.
GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments “In settling this matter today, the City of Baton Rouge has taken a public stand against housing discrimination. Oxford Houses are a much-needed resource for people with disabilities in communities throughout Louisiana. GNOFHAC is prepared to act in whatever ways necessary to protect the rights of Louisianans with disabilities.”
The plaintiffs are represented by GNOFHAC and attorneys John Adcock and Steven Polin.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is a private non-profit organization. GNOFHAC is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and furthering equal housing opportunities through education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement of fair housing laws across the metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. The activities described in this release were privately funded.
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