The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the town of Wolcott over alleged discrimination against people with disabilities, the department said Monday.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut alleges that Wolcott violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow the operation of a group home for adults with disabilities because of their disabilities, according to the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice is also alleging that the town of Wolcott amended their zoning regulations to prohibit community residences for adults with disabilities from operating.
“The Fair Housing Act protects the right of individuals with disabilities to live and pursue happiness in this free country without suffering the indignity and injustice of discrimination dressed up as ‘zoning laws’ enacted or enforced as a result of misguided stereotypes and warped fears,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
“Disability discrimination is unconscionable, unlawful, and unnecessarily injures people. The Fair Housing Act prohibits municipalities from applying their zoning laws in a manner that discriminates because of disability," Dreiband continued.
This case arose as the town of Wolcott denied a property owner and group home operator a special use permit. The owner and operator sought to open a residence for 13 adults and mental health disabilities, according to the Department of Justice.
At the time, Wolcott's zoning ordinance permitted the operation of community residences of up to 15 adults with disabilities, as long as certain conditions were satisfied. The owner and operator then filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after their permit was denied, the Department of Justice said.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities,” U.S. Attorney John H. Durham for the District of Connecticut said in a statement. “This lawsuit is a step toward ensuring a future in which all people are granted equal opportunity and full integration in our society.”
According to the Department of Justice, the lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting the town from applying its zoning regulations in a manner that discriminates against people with disabilities. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages as well as payment of a civil penalty.
A similar case challenging the town's conduct was filed by the owner and operator of the proposed residence.