In this issue:
- Aaron Kinikini, New DLC Legal Director
- Utah Transition Today Report
- Helping Workers Fight Discrimination
- NDEAM October
- Papa John’s Discrimination
- Fair Housing For Everyone
- Maddy’s Run 5K 2014
- Ask An Advocate: Voting
A New Era of Legal Leadership,
e are pleased to announce that Aaron Kinikini has commenced his tenure as the DLC’s new Legal Director. Mr. Kinikini is a graduate of the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law and brings to this position a wealth of experience drawn from his background in general civil rights litigation and over four years of specialized disability rights practice here at the DLC.
Concerning his vision for the DLC’s legal work and its role in the wider community, Mr. Kinikini states: “My goal is to revitalize the agency’s image in both the courts and in the community at large. The DLC can and should be a dynamic civil rights agency engaged in high-impact legal work. To this end, we are taking a markedly more aggressive approach to litigation, in both individual cases and on systemic levels. Special focus will be devoted to providing legal representation to the most vulnerable and at-risk individuals and groups with disabilities, wherever they reside in our state.”
As areas of systemic focus, Mr. Kinikini has identified working toward increased community integration in Medicaid-funded residential programs, advocating for improvements in corrections (prisons & jails) mental health treatment, and ensuring polling place accessibility as DLC priorities. With regard to individual client representation, Mr. Kinikini expects the new emphasis on litigation will have immediate effect and positive results for DLC clients. He firmly believes that, “An enhanced litigation capacity and a bold willingness to go to court will help every individual client the agency represents—regardless of whether the case is resolved through a phone call to opposing counsel, or whether it proceeds to a jury trial.” But, he also acknowledges that, “Litigation is not an end in and of itself. It should only serve to further the broader goals and purposes of the agency, which I see as a three-fold mission: 1) protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities; 2) advocating for equality, opportunity and inclusion; and 3) empowering individuals to make meaningful choices. As legal director, I am truly excited and energized by this challenge, and I have every confidence that the DLC’s dedicated, talented pool of attorneys and advocates can make this new era one of amazing growth for the agency, and powerful advancement of our core mission.”
DLC Transition Report Gets National Attention
hat if I told you that your creative and energetic daughter who loves the outdoors has a guaranteed job when she leaves high school? Would you feel relief knowing that she is launching into a promising future? But wait…What if I told you that her new job is at a warehouse…with concrete floors and fluorescent lighting, oh, and she’ll be putting a recipe of nuts, bolts and widgets in a plastic bag over and over? Assigned to a small work crew of other people with disabilities, she’ll rarely meet new people. Of course though, she will be paid. But only $2.00 an hour, a rate established by some formula that determines the value of her work. To top it off, she’ll likely work the same position for years, even decades. Now, how do you feel? Perhaps, as a parent, you’d still find this a better option than the one the neighbor boy was given. He’s been mostly watching television since he graduated four years ago. He was excited to go to work at first too, but he didn’t get the support he needed then and now he doesn’t have the confidence to try.
As advocates, we know that the law supports a system where students with disabilities are prepared during their teen years with academic, financial, independent living and vocational skills to help them pursue the work that interests them. It’s called “Transition Services” and it’s meant to prepare students to live a fulfilling and integrated adult life. Why then, are so many young adults faced with so few choices when there are many systems that are supposed to be offering support (i.e., school districts, Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Services for People with Disabilities, Workforce Services, etc.)?
In 2013, the DLC set a goal of learning more about what transition practices work in Utah and what needs improvement. In total, we visited 19 school transition programs. We interviewed students, staff, and educators. Now, our findings are detailed in “Utah Transition Today: A 2014 Report of Opportunities and Barriers.” The report, which explores the issues related to student success in competitive and integrated employment is catching the attention of schools, service providers and even the national media.
Improving opportunities for young people with disabilities is an on-going goal at the DLC. We’ll continue monitoring efforts to improve transition, while advocating at every legislative session for funding to support employment options for students as they leave the Utah school system. As “Utah Transition Today” states: “We expect to see the number of students with meaningful and gainful employment grow substantially, and programs that pay subminimum wage and/or segregate people with disabilities eliminated.” To find out more visit: www.disabilitylawcenter.org/education/
Helping Workers Fight Discrimination
he Disability Law Center’s Employment Team is passionate about helping people with disabilities protect their employment rights. That’s why when Scott and his family contacted us and told us that he had been fired from his job with Papa John’s Pizza because he had the assistance of a job coach, we investigated. We brought the issue to the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by drafting and submitting a complaint. You see, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits private employers, state, and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.
If you feel that you might have been discriminated against, we encourage you to call our office for help. If you situation qualifies, the DLC will meet with you for a legal clinic to review your case. Our attorneys will provide you with helpful self-advocacy advice and tools, and depending on the facts of the case, may be able to help you file a complaint with either the Utah Anti-Discrimination and Labor Division (UALD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In some cases, we may be able to represent you in a lawsuit against your employer. As for Scott, we are hopeful that his case will result in future Papa John’s employees being able to utilize job coaches as a reasonable accommodation, protected under the ADA. You can read at length about Scott’s case in the Associated Press article in the next section.
NDEAM – Disability Employment Awareness
he DLC announces its participation in NDEAM, an annual awareness campaign to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. “We know the strongest of workforces includes the skills and talents of all individuals, including those with disabilities,” says DLC Advocate Lindsay Boerens. “Let’s work together to encourage our community to increase the opportunities for persons with disabilities to secure real jobs and earn real wages.” Visit www.dol.gov/odep and join us by thinking about what you can do to improve the lives of persons with disabilities.
Papa John’s Discriminated Against Employee with Down Syndrome,
EEOC Charges in Suit
SSOCIATED PRESS—PHOENIX—PJ Utah LLC, PJ Cheese, Inc., and PJ United, Inc., collectively doing business as Papa John’s, violated federal law by firing an employee because of his intellectual disability, Down Syndrome, after refusing to allow him the reasonable accommodation of a job coach, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit charges that Papa John’s discriminated against Scott Bonn by failing to reasonably accommodate his Down Syndrome and by terminating him because of his disability. According to the EEOC’s suit, Papa John’s employed Bonn successfully at its Farmington, Utah location, allowing an independently employed and insured job coach to assist him, until an operating partner visited the location. The EEOC alleges that the operating partner, upon observing Bonn working with the assistance of his job coach, ordered Papa John’s to fire Bonn.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities by failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities. The use of a job coach is considered a reasonable accommodation where the situation calls for one.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. PJ Utah LLC, PJ Cheese, Inc., PJ United, Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00695-BCW) in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah after exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement. The agency is seeking monetary relief including back pay with pre-judgment interest and compensatory damages. The EEOC is also seeking an injunction prohibiting future discrimination and any other curative relief to prevent Papa John’s from engaging in any discriminatory practices.
“People with intellectual disabilities are one of the most underemployed segments of the workforce,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Many disabled persons are qualified, ready and willing to work. All they need is an equal opportunity. Job coaches are one form of reasonable accommodation that allows employees with intellectual disabilities to be able to work.”
Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “Employers who terminate people because of their disability or because they requested a reasonable accommodation are violating federal law. We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at: www.eeoc.gov
Fair Housing For Everyone
e are rounding out our first year of advocating for the housing rights of protected classes. We’ve conducted tests, investigated complaints, and followed through with legal action. To learn more about us check out some of our accomplishments during the past year or visit our page:
- Conducted 153 Fair Housing tests (290 to date).
- Filed the first ever complaints, 12 total, in Utah based on testing with both UALD and HUD.
- Received our first UALD cause finding based on testing (assistance animal test) in which we were awarded $2,760 in damages and the owners were fined $2,000.
- Awarded $5,406 for diversion of resources in FY14 ($6,306 to date).
Maddy’s Run 5K 2014!
Saturday, October 4th, dawned one of those truly perfect fall days! The clear skies and sunshine were a great start, but what made that morning even more remarkable was the warmth and enthusiasm shining from the participants, volunteers, and supporters of the 2014 Maddy’s Run 5K. The annual run honors the life of Madelyn “Maddy” Jackson, who passed away from Cornelia de Lange Syndrome in August 2010 at the age of 18.
The Disability Law Center is grateful to the Jackson family for the opportunity to be a part of celebrating Maddy’s life and by association, the lives of many individuals with disabilities who inspire us. If you were a part of this effort in any way, whether you ran, registered, donated, told your friends, put up signs, had ideas for publicity, or gave words of encouragement, we hope you enjoyed yourself, found some meaning in what you were doing, and thank you for your support and participation. Through the generosity of everyone involved we will be able to provide legal advocacy to many more families and individuals in need.
Ask An Advocate: Voting
uestion:My husband has had some health problems lately requiring periodic hospital stays. As a veteran, he is passionate about his right to participate in the electoral process. He is registered to vote, and has actively researched all the candidates and propositions on this year’s ballot. My concern is that he may be ill, or hospitalized, when Election Day comes and won’t be able to get to the polls. Do we have any other options?
nswer:First of all, please accept my gratitude for the sacrifices your husband and family have made to preserve our freedom. His service is appreciated and his commitment to exercising his constitutional right to vote is commendable. The answer to your question: YES! You have several other options for voting.
- Many counties offer early voting at selected locations. That way, your husband can vote at a time that is convenient for him.
- You can request an absentee ballot. Do this by submitting an absentee ballot request form to your county clerk. You can obtain the form at the County Clerk’s Office or go to vote.utah.gov and print the form at home. You may then mail, or deliver, the form to the County Clerk’s Office. An even easier way to submit this request is to complete the ‘online voter registration form’ at vote.utah.gov. The information will then be transmitted to your county clerk. Once you submit the request, the county clerk will send you a paper ballot that you can fill out and return. All completed absentee ballot application forms should be filed with the County Clerk’s Office no later than the Thursday before Election Day.
- If your husband does not request an absentee ballot, and finds himself in the hospital after the Thursday before the Election, there are emergency provisions in the Utah State Statue that allow him to request a ballot. Contact the County Clerk’s Office to notify them of the situation and request a ballot. The clerk will then make arrangements to get it to you. This might include delivering the ballot, or faxing, it to him. He may also choose to appoint someone to pick it up.
Many election officials have a reputation of going out of their way to ensure that everyone who meets voting requirements has the opportunity to vote. However, some may not have a perfect system to deal with emergency requests. If you have any questions, or run into barriers, please feel free to call us at the DLC. We have election specialists waiting to help, and remember to vote in the General Election on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014.