Harris vs. Quinn, and its Impact on Individuals with Disabilities
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC, we are staunch advocates of the individual with disabilities’ right to independence. In fact, our latest housing development endeavors are intended to help individuals with disabilities obtain the highest level of independent living possible, while providing the supports necessary to help those individuals build healthy, fulfilling adult lives.
In the United States, one of the supports necessary to the independence of individuals with disabilities is the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Services Program (CDPAP). This program, which was thirty years in the making, is intended to fill the gap between the decision making capabilities of individuals with disabilities and their physical ability to carry out these decisions. As a Medicaid program, the CDPAP provides individuals with the financial ability to recruit, hire, train, and (if necessary) fire, personal assistants to perform the tasks that they themselves are unable to perform. According to a proponent of the program, Samuel. R. Bagenstos, “This arrangement promotes independence, enables people with disabilities to live as a part of–not apart from–the community, and helps preserve scarce state Medicaid budgets.[i]”
Lately, a Supreme Court Case that threatens this program has come to light in the media – Harris vs. Quinn. The case itself relates to the employer/employee relationship between the individuals with disabilities and their hired assistants, and the collective bargaining rights of these assistants. Essentially, according to a Supreme Court Precedent, the State can force public workers to submit to an exclusive representative for collective bargaining, i.e. unionize. These individuals would only be considered a part of a union in regards to collective bargaining, however they would still be required to pay the union dues. This precedent is challenged under the grounds that these individuals are not hired, trained, supervised or fired by the state; in fact, the consumer (or the individual with a disability) is responsible for those tasks – as well, the assistants or the homecare workers would be paying for speech with which they do not necessarily agree, i.e. a violation of the first amendment. (For a more detailed analysis of this case, please visit Harris vs. Quinn: An End to the Forced Unionization of Home Care Workers? )
According to Bagenstos, who published a blog on the Huffington Post website about the case, Harris vs. Quinn has the potential to devastate a program which is extremely beneficial to Americans with disabilities. He argues that if the court rejects the precedent, states would be put to a choice; “They could continue providing personal assistants with effective collective bargaining rights, but they would then have to abandon the principle of consumer control over hiring, firing, and day-to-day supervision. Alternatively, they could abandon collective bargaining and simply treat personal-assistance workers for all purposes as employees of the individual consumers they serve, but they would then have to abandon collective bargaining over wages and benefits–bargaining that has proven to reduce turnover in the personal-assistance workforce.[ii]”
Harris vs. Quinn was first brought before the courts in 2011, and oral arguments in the case were heard January 21st of this year. A ruling is expected by late spring of 2014.
Despite which side of the case you personally come down on, there is no doubt that individuals with disabilities benefit from the ability to hire, train, and fire their personal assistants. It is this aspect of the program that allow these individuals to ensure that their personal assistants can be relied on, and to exercise autonomy over their own lives and future. We feel that to threaten this autonomy is to take a step back from the fight for independence and rights of individuals with disabilities, certainly a step in the wrong direction. What do you think?
Thanks so much for dropping by our blog today! We hope that you have found this blog as interesting as we did – here at M&L we feel it is incredibly important to stay on top of all legal issues that could potentially affect individuals with disabilities in the United States, and Harris vs. Quinn is an excellent example of how a relatively unknown legal proceeding could have vast, far reaching effects on our clients, family and friends.
If you would like more information on how to help your loved one with a disability live with increased independence, independent housing for individuals with disabilities, or any other issue related to special needs financial and life planning please do not hesitate to contact us, check our services page, or read more of our informative weekly blogs.
From all of us here at M&L, have a great Thursday!
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