FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Karen I. Ward, Senior Counsel
TTY (800) 610-2779
Alan Goldstein, Senior Attorney
TTY (800) 610-2779
Lambs Farm Sued for Excluding Man Because of HIV-Positive Status
Equip for Equality seeks damages and injunction for man who had worked at Lambs Farm for many years
Complaint: Download (Word Doc)
CHICAGO (September 27, 2005) --Equip for Equality today filed suit in federal court against The Lambs Farm, Inc. of Libertyville, Illinois, on behalf of a 54-year old man with a developmental disability whom Lambs Farm refuses to serve because he is HIV positive. Lambs Farm is a non-profit organization located on a 72-acre campus in Libertyville that provides housing, vocational and recreational services to adults with developmental disabilities.
The suit alleges that Lambs Farm's refusal to admit Doe to its services is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal Rehabilitation Act, and the federal Fair Housing Act.
"John Doe" received services from Lambs Farm from the time he was a young man, and was close to the founders, Bob Terese and Corinne Owen. After moving out of state in 2003 to be with his terminally ill mother, Doe returned to Illinois in 2004 with the intention of returning to Lambs Farm. So confident was his mother that Doe would be received warmly by Lambs Farm that she set up a trust for him which provided that upon his death the assets of the trust would go to Lambs Farm.
Lambs Farm initially welcomed Doe back and proceeded to process his application for services, including housing. Lambs Farm staff even took him to see the apartment that would be his when the processing of his application was completed. However, when Lambs Farm reviewed the medical packet sent by the agency assisting Doe, its management became aware that Doe was HIV-positive.
Doe's application was immediately rejected. Lambs Farm's Executive Director, Dianne Yaconetti, expressed concern that others would find out about Doe's HIV status and would be fearful. The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Robert Neiman, confirmed that Lambs Farm would provide neither housing nor vocational services to Doe because of his "communicable disease."
Doe, who regularly takes medication for his HIV without assistance, has no symptoms. "All I wanted to do was go back to Lambs Farm," says Doe, who does not understand how he could be rejected by "the Lambs" when he has done nothing wrong and poses no threat to anyone.
"Lambs Farm's categorical refusal to serve Doe based on his HIV status is a clear violation of the federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on disability," says Karen Ward, Senior Counsel at Equip for Equality and one of the attorneys representing Doe. "Lambs Farm's actions are based upon the very stereotypes and unfounded fears that these laws were designed to address."
"For a well-known community agency that claims to be devoted to the empowerment of people with disabilities, this attitude is particularly shocking and disheartening," says Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "Twenty-five years after the emergence of AIDS in this country, and fifteen years after the passage of the ADA, we certainly did not expect to see such ill-informed decision-making. We are hopeful that the federal court will quickly bring an end to this injustice."
The suit seeks an order compelling Lambs Farm to admit John Doe to its vocational and residential programs, as well as compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys fees.
Equip for Equality, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to advance the rights of people with physical or mental disabilities, including development disabilities and mental illnesses, in Illinois through self-advocacy assistance, education, legal services and public policy initiatives. It is designated by the Governor as the state's protection and advocacy system with broad statutory powers to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities pursuant to federal law.
A copy of the complaint is available at www.equipforequality.org.
John Doe v. The Lambs Farm, Inc.
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois