Challenge to HRA “Demonstrated Compliance” Requirement for Disabled Public Assistance Recipients

Wilson v. Hansell, 08 Civ. 8469 (WHP) (S.D.N.Y.)

Nature of Claims: This action alleges that HRA’s “demonstrated compliance” requirement violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) insofar as it requires recipients who have a medical barrier to engaging in work programs to endure longer sanction periods than those who are able to work.

Background: A public assistance recipient who misses a work-related appointment or fails to comply with a work requirement has her benefits reduced (“sanctioned”) for a period of time. The sanction for a first violation continues until the recipient complies with the requirement. Sanctions for subsequent violations continue for minimum time periods, and thereafter until the recipient complies. These are known as “durational sanctions.” Recipients who experience durational sanctions generally have their cases transferred to a specialized Job Center (Center 71). At that Center, the recipient is required to participate in a 10-day regimen of attendance at daily appointments in order to “demonstrate compliance” after the durational period for the sanction expires.

The complaint was filed on October 2, 2008. On December 3, 2008, with the State’s approval, HRA adopted a new policy that would allow individuals who claimed that they had a medical barrier to participation in work programs the right to have their benefits promptly reinstated after a sanction period. Subsequently, however, the defendants indicated that the new policy did not apply at Center 71. After several months of negotiations, the parties were unable to reach agreement on revisions to the HRA policy that would be in effect for people at Center 71.

Current Status: After lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful settlement negotiations, defendants are scheduled to file a motion to dismiss, and plaintiffs are scheduled to file a motion for class certification, by February 3, 2010. Oral argument on the motions is scheduled for March 12, 2010.

No. Persons Affected: Approximately 4,000 persons are potentially affected on an annual basis.