Trials & Litigation

Landmark DOJ settlement with RI provides road map to disability-law compliance for 49 other states

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A landmark settlement with Rhode Island over placement of disabled individuals in low-wage, segregated settings will provide a road map for compliance in 49 other states, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

The consent decree will give the state 10 years to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by better integrating those with physical and developmental disabilities into employment in the community, the New York Times (reg. req.) reports.

“Today’s agreement will make Rhode Island a national leader in the movement to bring people with disabilities out of segregated work settings and into typical jobs in the community at competitive pay,” Jocelyn Samuels said at a news conference in Providence. She is acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

“This announcement is a historic step forward,” Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said.

Under the settlement, “significant” state and federal funds that were being used to subsidize so-called sheltered workshops where individuals were paid an average of $2.21 an hour to perform rote tasks such as unwrapping bars of soap and putting stickers on CD cases will instead be directed toward programs that train and, if need be, subsidize them to perform jobs in the community that pay at least the minimum wage, according to the Associated Press, the Oregonian and the Times.

A DOJ press release provides additional details about the settlement, which is expected to affect 3,250 disabled individuals in Rhode Island and some 450,000 nationwide. A Civil Rights Division website discusses applicable law and enforcement under the ADA and Olmstead v. L.C., a 1999 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires individuals with disabilities to receive services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs.

Additional and related coverage:

Disability Scoop: “Justice Department Urges Shift Away From Sheltered Workshops”

WPRI: “State visited Birch school in 2012”

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