Novel Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Sheltered Workshop (Part II)
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.
(Title IX forbids sexual harassment and other forms of sex/gender discrimination in federally-funded educational activities.) Most Title IX cases involve schools or colleges, although there is at least one reported case involving a prison vocational education program. However, we found no Title IX cases involving sheltered workshops.
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In short, our theory was that the sheltered workshop was covered by Title IX because the activities in which the young woman engaged at the workshop were similar to the things that she had done in her special education program in high school, which was clearly covered by Title IX.
So, for example, she had previously attended this workshop for half days in her high school transition program. Her former IEP goals at school, such as learning to count money and increasing her social skills, were the same or similar to goals in her “individual habilitation plan” at the workshop. And her actual activities at the workshop, like sorting parts, were the same as her activities at the workshop while she was in high school. Also under Illinois law, the purpose of developmental training programs is not exclusively vocational, but is also to “promote independence in daily living and economic self-sufficiency.” Ill. Admin. Code tit. 59, §119.100.
In the lawsuit, the young woman claimed that her right to equal educational opportunity was violated when the workshop failed to keep her safe from sexual assault. The case settled before the judge could rule on this claim. However, we think this legal theory is a promising claim for girls and women in workshop/developmental training settings who are victims of sexual abuse.