PORTLAND, Ore (Reuters) – Thousands of disabled Oregonians are stuck segregated in dead-end jobs at “sheltered workshops,” in violation of federal law, because of failed state programs that should help them find mainstream employment, according to a landmark lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
Sheltered workshops, sometimes called “work-activity programs,” are facilities funded by state and local agencies and nonprofit groups around the country that provide jobs to disabled people performing basic, unskilled labor such as packaging or simple assembly tasks.
Workers at these facilities are typically paid less than minimum wage, according to U.S. labor standards for piece work.Read the rest at Raw Story
While intended as stepping stones to jobs in the competitive labor market, sheltered workshops have drawn fire from critics who say too many disabled people are being segregated and exploited by them. Those critics also say sheltered jobs tend to perpetuate a stereotype that disabled individuals are incapable of succeeding at real work.
Lawsuit challenges ‘work-activity programs’ for Oregon’s disabled
The federal court suit was filed in Portland, he said, because Oregon once led the nation in providing vocational training services that helped integrate developmentally disabled workers into actual community-based jobs earning minimum wage or better.
But since the mid-1990s, the lawsuit said, “Oregon has reversed course, increasing its reliance on segregated workshops while simultaneously decreasing its development and use of supported employment services.”