Sunday, September 20, 2015
Oregon: Settlement of lawsuit will cut sheltered workshop placements
This is from Disability Scoop, September 9, 2015:
"Settlement Calls for Cuts to Sheltered Workshops" by Shaun Heasley
Over 1,000 people with developmental disabilities will be able to leave sheltered workshops for competitive employment under a proposed settlement in a first-of-its-kind class-action lawsuit.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that the state of Oregon has agreed to cut the number of adults working in sheltered workshops by nearly 400 and reduce hours worked in such settings by almost a third in the next two years.
Meanwhile, the state will provide 1,115 adults with developmental disabilities who are currently employed in sheltered workshops as well as 4,900 individuals with disabilities ages 14 to 24 with supported employment services so that they can obtain competitive employment over the next seven years.
The settlement comes in a 2012 case brought against top Oregon officials by residents with developmental disabilities and their advocates who alleged that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide supported employment services.
In 2013, the Justice Department intervened in the case, now known as Lane v. Brown, and helped to broker the settlement agreement reached this week.
There is more to this story...
(from the VOR Weekly News Update, 9/18/15)
Most of the news articles describing the settlement of LANE, et al. v. BROWN, et al., [United States District Court Case No. 3:12-cv-00138-ST] refer to sheltered workshops or center-based work programs for people with disabilities only in pejorative terms. According to most of the media coverage, the existence of sheltered workshops force disabled people into menial, below minimum wage, jobs and isolate them from the rest of society.
For people who cannot work successfully in integrated work settings, workshops provide jobs without the pressure of competing at the same level as those without disabilities. Individuals are paid based on how productive they are and usually receive other government benefits to supplement their incomes. These work centers often provide other services and socialization for people who would otherwise not have appropriate activities available to them. They also allow family caregivers to hold down jobs and otherwise live a more normal life outside of their care giving responsibilities.
For more on the unintended consequences of limiting access to these services, see The DD News Blog, including videos of interviews with people who work in sheltered workshops and their families.
The Disability Scoop article notes that a Justice Department fact sheet on the settlement says that the goal is not to shutter sheltered workshop placements, but to ensure that “those who want to work in integrated settings have a realistic opportunity to do so.” The proposed settlement, however, has very clear guidelines setting arbitrary goals of reducing the number of people employed in sheltered workshops.
An article from Oregonlive.com, states that The United Cerebral Palsy Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, along with eight individuals, sued the Governor of Oregon and top Department of Human Resources managers with the aim of putting an end to sheltered workshops.
In addition, there are no guarantees that people trained for supported employment in integrated settings will actually find or hold jobs, or that the state will allocate sufficient funding for these services.
The proposed settlement must be approved by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart:
"After notice to all class members, the Court will conduct a fairness hearing pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) to decide whether the Agreement is a fair, adequate and reasonable resolution of the claims of the plaintiff class..."
We assume that information about when the fairness hearing will be held will be announced later. This is likely to be the only opportunity that individuals and their families who need and value sheltered workshop services will have to express their opinions about the details of the proposed settlement and how they will be personally affected. Without the representation of people who need sheltered workshop services in the negotiating process in class action lawsuits, there is no assurance that their individual rights to appropriate services will be protected. Their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act as interpreted by the US Supreme Court Olmstead decision to “integration appropriate to the needs of the individual” and choice are also in jeopardy. [See “The Olmstead Decision has been Misinterpreted” from VOR.]
More links to information at Disability Rights Oregon
U.S. Department of Justice Fact Sheet
The Settlement Agreement