The Named Plaintiffs and Greater Boston Legal Services are pleased to announce a settlement in Harper v. DTA, a federal civil rights case brought against the welfare department, DTA, for disability discrimination.
We are sending this letter to you and other community and state providers who work with affected individuals because we hope you will help us share information about the proposed settlement and upcoming fairness hearing with class members.
Three individuals with disabilities brought Harper v. DTA alleging that DTA discriminated against individuals with disabilities in its cash and Food Stamps programs, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The proposed settlement represents major progress towards improving access to vital benefits for individuals with disabilities by making significant changes to how DTA handles cases in every office in the state, including:
1. screening for disability related barriers;
2. explanation of disability rights;
3. improved policies regarding accommodation;
4. revision of written materials to be easier to understand;
5. designation of staff to troubleshoot and provide additional assistance; and
6. a pilot to examine the efficacy and efficiency of taking steps prior to imposing adverse actions on certain cases.
Because the case is a class action, meaning on behalf of all individuals with disabilities who apply for or receive benefits, the federal court must approve the settlement to make it final. There will be a hearing on the fairness of the proposed settlement on August 19th at 3:00 p.m. in Courtroom 10 of the Moakley Federal Court in Boston before Senior District Judge Mark Wolf.
The attached Notice of Settlement provides detail on both the proposed settlement itself and the fairness hearing. Anyone who wishes to attend the fairness hearing is welcome. Anyone who wishes to speak about the settlement, whether to object or speak in favor of any part of it, may do so by writing to the court as described in the attachment.
DTA cannot identify all class members, so informing community and state providers who work with affected clients is very important. Please share this announcement broadly with any clients with disabilities who deal with DTA and with providers and groups who may work with them.
Please contact Sarah Levy (617-603-1619) or Lizbeth Ginsburg (617-603-1624) for more information. A shorter summary of the settlement is available at www.gbls.org.