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 intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and an advocacy organization on January 25, 2012. The plaintiffs claimed 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 claimed, deprived members of the plaintiff class (more than 2,300 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 proposed 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 certifying 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.
On March 27, 2013, the United States (Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division) moved to intervene in the case. On May 22, 2013, the Court granted the United States' motion to intervene. The U.S. filed an intervenor complaint on May 24, 2014.
Some individuals who were members of the class but see sheltered work as equally valuable as integrated work moved to intervene on the concern that their ability to choose sheltered work would be curtailed. On June 20, 2014 Magistrate Judge Stewart denied the motion.
The parties reached a settlement agreement in 2015. On September 17, 2015, Magistrate Judge Stewart issued an order granting the parties' joint motion for preliminary approval of the proposed class action settlement. The Clearinghouse does not have the order. The settlement was negotiated between the U.S. DOJ and the state of Oregon, and will resolve this lawsuit if approved. Oregon committed to improving work opportunities for about 7,000 individuals with I/DD, in an effort starting in 2015 and stretching over the next seven years.
Specifically, Oregon committed to help 1,115 working age individuals who receive or have received sheltered workshop services to obtain integrated employment in competitive wage jobs, reduce the number of adults with I/DD in sheltered workshops from 1,926 to no more than 1,530. The state also committed end funding for sheltered workshop placements for youth newly eligible for state funded employment, provide at least 4,900 youth with employment services to help them access integrated employment, and work with the state Department of Human Services to support these and related improvements, including seeking approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for financial incentives to providers for individuals with I/DD to obtain integrated employment.
The parties would agree that the settlement would terminate no later than July 1, 2022.
In November 2015 plaintiffs and defendants jointly moved for approval of the settlement agreement. On January 27, 2016, the judge filled an amended order granting approval of the agreement, and on February 11, 2016, the judge granted an award of $5,250 in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs. Denise Heberle - 08/08/2012
Andrew Junker - 11/06/2014
Kate Craddock - 02/16/2016