Based upon its successful ADA class action litigation in Oregon, CPR partnered with Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) to pursue an initiative and potential litigation to expand supported employment services and eliminate reliance on segregated sheltered workshops in North Carolina. With the onset of the pandemic and the associated temporary closure of sheltered workshops due to the crisis, CPR sought to seize this opportunity to ensure that persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities did not return to segregated employment programs, but instead, were supported in obtaining competitive integrated employment in the community. Together with DRNC, CPR drafted a demand letter that described the violations of federal law, and then entered into a lengthy but collaborative negotiation process with State agency leaders. The process resulted in a comprehensive plan to restructure the State’s employment service system. The plan has been incorporated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was recently signed by the North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The MOU describes the actions that the State will take to prohibit future admissions to sheltered workshops, provide an assessment and vocational service planning process for all current workshop participants, ensure all participants can make an informed choice of where to work, expand integrated employment services, provide competency-based training for employment staff, assist workshop providers in converting to integrated employment, provide competitive integrated employment to approximately 800-900 individuals currently in workshops, and close all workshops in the next five years. The MOU, which serves as a settlement agreement, will remain in place for six years. “We hope that this will serve as a voluntary blueprint for other states that have yet to dismantle antiquated and illegal forms of segregated work,” said Steven Schwartz, Legal Director of the Center for Public Representation. “We are committed to challenging segregation wherever it remains.”
CPR and DRNC issued a press release announcing the agreement today.
North Carolina state agencies issued a related announcement.