This (post-Dukes v. Wal-Mart) class action was brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon by individual persons with disabilities and an advocacy organization on January 25, 2012. The plaintiffs claim that the State of Oregon and its Offices of Developmental Disability Services and Vocational Rehabilitation Services, along with other state agencies, violated the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act by operating an employment services system that unnecessarily depends on segregated workshops. These segregated settings, plaintiffs claim, deprive members of the plaintiff class (more than 2300 people in the state) supported employment services that would allow them the opportunity to work alongside non-disabled persons. They claimed the state's policy discriminates against them based on disability. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief and certification of their propsed class.
On April 3, 2012, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs were attempting to create "a new cause of action" by extending the ADA's integration mandate beyond the requirement to provide community- and home-based services to prevent unnecessary institutionalization (as established in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581, 119 S. Ct. 2176 (1999)) to include employment services. They argued that (1) employment claims are not cognizable under Title II of the ADA; (2) even if plaintiffs get past that hurdle, the integration mandate does not apply because the denial of employment services does not place any plaintiff at risk of institutionalization; (3) plaintiffs’ claims improperly seek to require defendants to provide a service that the state does not and cannot provide, namely integrated employment in a community business; and (4) plaintiffs’ claims improperly seek to impose a certain standard of care on the state’s provision of employment services. The core of the defendants' argument is the notion that the integration mandate of the ADA applies only to a person's place of residency.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon disagreed. Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart held that defendants' claim that Title II does not require provision of employment was beside the point because plaintiffs seek services, not employment; and that the integration mandate applies equally to provision of employment-related services and to services allowing persons to live outside institutions. The Court did, however find that some of the allegations in the complaint suggested the plaintiffs sought "the forbidden remedy" of requiring defendants to provide an adequate level of employment services to enable plaintiffs to obtain a competitive job, and therefore dismissed the complaint without prejudice and with leave to amend. On May 29, 2012, the plaintiffs filed their amended complaint having made changes to correct errors identified by the court.
The court then addressed the question of class certification. The plaintiffs sought to certify a class consisting of “all individuals in Oregon with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are in, or who have been referred to, sheltered workshops” and "who are qualified for supported employment services.” The defendants opposed the certification due to lack of commonality and the unavailability of statewide injunctive relief. They relied on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a Title VII employment discrimination case in which the plaintffs sought to certify nationwide damages classes and were denied, based largely on the alleged necessity of numerous fact-intensive, individualized inquiries as to what damages plaintiffs were entitled to.
The plaintiffs argued that their case was precisely suited to class action treatment in that it challenges system-wide policies, practices, and failures which have allegedly damaged all class members in the same way by unnecessarily segregating them in sheltered workshops. Evidence needed to resolve the common questions of law and fact is the same for all class members. Again, the court disagreed with defendants.
In her August 6, 2012 opinion and order certifiying the class, Magistrate Judge Stewart wrote that the case can be resolved "in one stroke" as required by Wal-Mart. Resolution would not require individualized assessment of each plaintiff's needs, nor would it require defendants to come up with a community job for every qualified individual. Since the plaintiffs were looking for injunctive relief that focuses on the defendants' conduct toward all the putative class members equally, it passes the commonality and typicality requirements for class certification.
The case is ongoing and currently in discovery. On March 27, 2013, the United States (Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division) moved to intervene in the case. Denise Heberle - 08/08/2012