CA Employment Lawyer: Oregon’s Sheltered Workshops for Disabled Under Fire

02/27/2012 // Los Angeles, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // California Employment Lawyer Eric Grover

Los Angles, CA (California Employment Lawyer News) — For many disabled citizens “sheltered workshops” are a way to find mainstream employment, but a class-action lawsuit claims the exact opposite has been occurring. The California employment lawyers at Keller Grover LLP, who advocate for employee rights, including those of disabled workers, report that a class action lawsuit has been filed that alleges these sheltered workshops are in violation of federal law.

The class-action lawsuit, which is believed to be the first of its kind in any state, was filed on behalf of the Oregon chapter of the Cerebral Palsy Association and eight individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Reuters reported.

The workshops, sometimes referred to as “work-activity programs,” provide jobs to disabled people who perform basic unskilled duties like packaging or simple assembly tasks. The programs, which are funded by state and local agencies and nonprofit groups, compensate the workers at below the minimum wage, which is in accordance with U.S. labor standards for piecework.

“These work programs are designed to help disabled workers transition into the mainstream workforce, but instead these individuals have seemingly been exploited and segregated, which only reinforces the negative views that disabled people cannot survive in a real-world job,” explains Eric Grover, a California employment lawyer at Keller Grover.

The lawsuit argues that since the mid-1990s “Oregon has reversed course, increasing its reliance on segregated workshops while simultaneously decreasing its development and use of supported employment services,” Reuters reported.

Oregon’s sheltered workshops now account for 2,300 disabled people at any one time, many of whom have been “stuck in long-term, dead-end facilities that offer virtually no interaction with non-disabled peers, and do not provide any real pathway to integrated employment and that provide compensation that is well below the minimum wage,” court documents revealed.

The lawsuit maintains that the “over-reliance on sheltered workshops and its failure to timely develop and adequately fund integrated employment services violates protections against discrimination under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.”

Half of the disabled people in the sheltered workshops were able to transition to mainstream jobs with competitive pay in 1988, but that number had dramatically dropped in 2010 to less than a quarter, Grover, a California employment lawyer explains.

“If these allegations are true, these sheltered workshops only fill disabled workers with the empty promise of a chance to enter the competitive workforce, but end up keeping them in the shadows with no way to move further in the job market. Instead the sheltered workshops are seemingly benefiting from the ‘cheap labor,’ which otherwise would have been performed by someone who is required to be paid at least the minimum wage,” stated Grover,” a Los Angeles employment lawyer.

The Oregon Department of Justice stated that they are working “to improve its services to the developmentally disabled, including assistance with employment opportunities for the disabled in the broader community,” as Reuters reported.

This news was brought to you by the Los Angeles employment lawyers at Keller Grover LLP.

Keller Grover is an experienced employment law firm that has played leading roles in a wide variety of employment related claims, including wage and hour, breach of contract cases and discrimination and harassment cases based on race, sex, age, disability and other legally protected categories. Keller Grover LLP is dedicated to helping workers whose wage and hour rights have been violated. For more information about the CA employment lawyers at Keller Grover and employment law cases, please visit www.kellergover.com.

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