A Favorable Settlement in Suit to Build Group Homes

     The Law Office of Thomas E. Kennedy, III, LC recently settled a matter involving a complaint that raised a number of issues under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Our client RAVE is an organization that provides housing and habilitation services as well as programs for adults with disabilities to integrate them into the community. Because of the nature of their disabilities, many of the participants in RAVE’s programs have no other residential options that provide them with daily living assistance and management of their needs. Without the community group homes operated by RAVE, many of the participants would be forced into institutions.

    Because of the increasing need for community homes in southern Illinois, RAVE sought to open two community homes in Anna, Illinois. 

     RAVE’s attempt to open the new homes was met by open opposition from the city and its residents, which culminated in Anna’s denial of the special use permits required to operate a community home in the area.

     Plaintiffs filed suit in November 2017 claiming Anna’s actions violated the the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

     A copy of the Complaint can be downloaded here.  Plaintiffs also sought a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting Anna from enforcing its discriminatory ordinance and requiring the city to issue the building and special use permits, as well as a certificate of zoning compliance to permit RAVE to construct and operate its community home in the city. This matter was successfully settled in April 2017. Anna issued RAVE the necessary permits and RAVE is now able to take the steps necessary to move residents into the home. Most importantly, RAVE’s residents are no longer at risk of facing institutionalization due to a lack of community housing.    

Minimum Wage Increase in St. Louis City

After two years on hold, City of St. Louis Ordinance No. 70078, raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour took effect on May 5, 2017.

This Ordinance makes St. Louis City’s minimum wage higher than the rest of Missouri’s, set at $7.70 an hour, and Illinois’, at $8.25 an hour.

The Ordinance, also known as Board Bill No. 83, was argued in the Ways and Means committee in the summer of 2015.

Increased income inequality, high poverty rate in St. Louis, and the inability of many St. Louis City workers to participate in the region’s opportunities because of their income were among   the many reasons the sponsors of the Ordinance believed the minimum wage should be increased.

The minimum wage increase has certainly had its opponents. Shortly after the Ordinance was approved by St. Louis aldermen, the city was sued by many business groups, including The Missouri Retailers Association and the Missouri Restaurant Association. These groups felt that the minimum wage should be equal across the state.

The opinions of these individuals was upheld by the St. Louis Circuit Court, which placed an injunction on the minimum wage Ordinance. But, Missouri law allows municipalities to establish minimum wages that exceeds the state minimum wage rate.

The case, Cooperative Home Care, Inc., et al., vs. City of St. Louis, Missouri, et al , was taken to the Missouri Supreme Court.

On Feb. 28, 2017, the MO. Supreme Court issued their opinion and ruled in favor of the city, going against the ruling made in the lower Circuit Court.

As required by the state’s Supreme Court ruling, City of St. Louis circuit judge Steven Ohmer lifted the injunction placed on the Ordinance, and the minimum wage increase went into place on May 5, 2017.

According to the National Employment Law Project, 35,000 workers in the City of St. Louis were immediately affected by this wage increase.

This new minimum wage does not apply to individuals who work less than 20 hours per year, businesses that employ fewer than 15 workers, and businesses that gross less than $500,000 per year.

Missouri Department of Labor and the Ordinance require that notices of the increased minimum wage must be sent to workplaces in St. Louis City, that employers inform their employees of the wage increase, and that employers do not violate the wage requirements and do not participate in prohibited conduct, as highlighted in sections two and three of the Ordinance, respectively.

Employees have the right to earn their wages. Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III specializes in employment law, and helps individuals determine if their employers have withheld them from their rights.

The minimum wage increase of $10 per hour that went into effect on May 5, 2017 will be followed by a raise of $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018. This puts St. Louis’ minimum wage well above most cities and states in America, and in closer alignment with larger cities, such as Chicago which has a current minimum wage of $10.50 per hour.

But the future of this is in jeopardy. 

The Ordinance has faced pushback in Jefferson City by many conservative Missouri lawmakers. On May 13, lawmakers sent a bill to Governor Eric Greitens banning local minimum wages.

Time ran out on the legislative session, and Greitens has yet to sign this bill into law.

Transgender Student Rights

TK FREEZE

The inequalities members of the LGBTQ+ community face are immense. Correcting these problems is complex in our country, and has become even more so in our nation’s schools: both public and private.

In recent months, the rights of transgender individuals has been put at the forefront of national attention — especially involving which bathrooms these individuals are permitted to enter: the one that matches their biological sex or the sex in which they identify with. This question was posed to the North Carolina government — and they answered.

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Placing a focus on our Mental Health

TK FREEZE

Our mental health is something that is crucial to our wellbeing, but it is often overlooked and not discussed in our society. For students in elementary, middle, and especially high school, learning about and discussing mental health in a safe, comfortable environment can be essential to lessening the stigma surrounding mental health. According to the data gathered by student journalists at Clayton High School, mental health may not be getting the attention it needs. Read more

Putting a Price on Emotional Distress

TK FREEZE
For most of us, our job is not just a way of earning a living. It also plays an important role in defining our identity. Often, the success that we achieve in our career is directly tied to our sense of dignity and self-worth. Loss of employment can cause trauma that approaches what we experience in divorce or other highly disruptive personal events. Read more

DOJ Announces Important Olmstead Sheltered Workshop Settlement with Rhode Island

TK FREEZE
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a landmark settlement agreement with Rhode Island to resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act relating to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
This is the first statewide settlement to address the rights of people with I/DD to receive integrated state-funded employment and daytime services in the broader community, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. Read more

Woman Suffering from MS Is Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits

TK FREEZE

The firm recently represented a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis in winning her appeal for Social Security disability benefits. This is wonderful news for our client who, in addition to receiving disability benefits going forward, will also get a payment for nearly four years of back benefits. Read more

Federal Government Shutdown Halts Firm’s Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

TK FREEZE
The federal government shutdown has real consequences for real people, including our firm’s clients. For example, a federal-court employment discrimination lawsuit that the firm is litigating with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been halted, at the EEOC’s request, until the shutdown is over. Read more

TEK Law Represents Nonprofit in Suit Against Hecker, IL to Build Group Homes

TK FREEZE
Our office represents nonprofit organization Human Support Services and two individual plaintiffs in their federal suit against the Village of Hecker over the Village Board’s denial of a special use permit required to allow the construction of two homes, which would each house four developmentally disabled residents in the Freedom Village subdivision. Read more

Novel Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Sheltered Workshop (Part II)

TK FREEZE
This post discusses the second novel claim in the lawsuit we brought for a young woman in a sheltered workshop who was raped by another workshop client. This claim alleged that the workshop was a federally-funded “education program or activity” that violated Title IX by failing to prevent this sexual assault. Read more

Novel Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Sheltered Workshop (Part I)

TK FREEZE
We recently settled a case for a young woman at a sheltered workshop who was raped by another workshop client. Our federal civil rights complaint raised two legal theories that are unique in this type of litigation and may be of interest to others. The lawsuit alleged, among other claims, a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688.
Find a copy of the complaint here. Read more

Survey shows abuse of individuals with disabilities widespread

TK FREEZE
A new survey by the Disability and Abuse Project reveals the harrowing prevalence of abuse of persons with disabilities, and the lack of effective responses. 40% of survey participants with disabilities reported experiencing sexual abuse and 50% said they had suffered physical abuse. Read more

Another Victory for Parents in Edwardsville

TK FREEZE Family Health Insurance[/caption] Following a four-day due process hearing, an Impartial Hearing Officer ruled that Edwardsville School District had violated the IDEA by removing a student with autism from a private placement and returning him to the district without a transition plan.

The hearing officer ordered a return of the student to the private therapeutic day school for not less than 18 months.

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Protecting disabled adults at work and school

TK FREEZESee news footage about a federal lawsuit filed by TEK on behalf of a woman with developmental disabilities who was raped at a developmental training program after her parents reported concerns about her attacker to the program’s administrator.

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Village of Alorton pays East St. Louis woman $110,000 for overnight stay in inaccessible jail

TK FREEZE
The Village of Alorton has settled with a partially paralyzed woman after holding her overnight, confining her to an inaccessible jail cell, and forcing her to move up and down the stairs to the basement police station below City Hall and the detention cells. Read more

Missouri considering new rules for hearing special education due process hearings

TK FREEZEThe Missouri House is considering a bill (SB 595) introduced in the Senate that would change the qualifications for hearing officers in special education due process hearings. http://www.senate.mo.gov/12info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=9266

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Paralyzed Woman Sues Village of Alorton and Former Police Chief Michael Baxton

TK FREEZEThe Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy, III, L.C. filed ADA, Section 504, and Constitutional claims against the City of Alorton and former Police Chief Michael Baxton, Sr. on January 12 2012. The plaintiff is a woman paralyzed almost entirely from the waist down as a result of spinal cord disorder, who alleges she was falsely arrested and then forced to move up and down stairs without assistance, including the use of her arm and leg braces. Read more

Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III L.C.

Civil Rights Law

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