U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Amanda Marshall, Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Eve Hill, and Executive Director of Disability Rights Oregon Bob Joondeph are holding a press conference to discuss the U.S. Department of Justice’s move to intervene in the class action lawsuit Lane v. Kitzhaber.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice’s motion alleges the State has violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by unnecessarily segregating thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in sheltered workshops, and by placing them at risk of such segregation when they could be served in integrated employment settings.

 

The Department opened an investigation in October 2011, and the Center for Public Representation and Disability Rights Oregon, along with two private law firms, filed Lane v. Kitzhaber to challenge segregated workshop placements under Olmstead. 

 

Paula Lane and all of the plaintiffs in Lane v. Kitzhaber applaud the decision of the United States to support the right of persons with developmental disabilities to receive employment services in integrated settings.  On March 27, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a motion asking the court to allow it to intervene in this pending class action lawsuit.

 

The United States began investigating the State of Oregon’s employment service system for persons with developmental disabilities in October 2011.  It issued a letter on June 29, 2012, concluding that the State was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act.  After months of negotiations to reach a settlement and avoid litigation, the United States determined that voluntary compliance was not possible and that resort to court was necessary.

The proposed complaint gives many examples of mistreatment of persons with developmental disabilities, such as a sheltered workshop in Oregon where 150 citizens with disabilities hand sort trash and clean garbage bins, with some earning only 44 cents an hour. This complaint makes clear that these deficiencies have  persisted for decades, despite repeated reports and plans calling for action to reform the State’s employment service system.   

 

Bob Joondeph, Executive Director of Disability Rights Oregon stated: "We are grateful for the involvement and assistance of the United States.  This case was filed almost 15 months ago we still have no relief for our clients.  As I said when the case was filed, they deserve better."

 

The plaintiffs in the case are eight individuals with developmental disabilities who want to work, who can work, and who need supported employment services to allow them to work in integrated settings.  They are joined by United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon and Southwest Washington.  The court has allowed the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, despite objections by the State.  The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Disability Rights Oregon, The Center for Public Representation, Miller Nash and Perkins Coie. 

 

Lane was originally filed in the US District Court for Oregon on January 25, 2012.  It challenges Oregon’s failure to provide supported employment services to more than 2,600 Oregonians with disabilities who are segregated in sheltered workshops, where they work at mundane tasks, usually for decades, earning just a fraction of the minimum wage, and often less than a dollar an hour.  This failure, the suit alleges, violates the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act by confining individuals with disabilities to segregated settings where they have little - if any - interaction with non-disabled peers and receive no training, no skills, and no advancement.
 
The United States found that the State of Oregon plans, structures, and administers its employment service system for developmental disabilities in a manner that perpetuates the segregation of individuals with developmental disabilities.  The State’s system unduly relies on sheltered workshops rather than providing employment services in integrated settings, causing the unnecessary segregation of individuals who are capable of, and not opposed to, working in the community. The United States recommended that the State implement certain remedial measures, including the development of sufficient supported employment services to enable those individuals who are unnecessarily segregated, or at risk of unnecessary segregation, in sheltered workshops to receive services in individualized, integrated employment settings in the community