practice area photo of lobby

Back to School with Section 504 and the ADA

Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb, LLC takes great pride in the diversity of our representation. One of these areas involves the representation of children with disabilities in securing non-discriminatory placements as well as a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and other services, in accordance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400, et. seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), 29 U.S.C. 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et. seq. Deborah Mattison works with Rachel McGinley to assure that such children receive the individualized instruction and related services to which they are entitled. Attorneys Mattison and McGinley’s practice also includes other related matters involving children with disabilities and their families, such as redressing harassment, bullying, and other discrimination.

 

Attorney Mattison’s legal background is unique. Upon graduating from the Antioch School of Law in 1980 in Michigan with a focus in social justice, Mattison worked for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, a private non-profit agency dedicated to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Ultimately Mattison became the Legal Director for the agency. There she focused on social justice issues involving persons with disabilities. In addition to her advocacy related to the deinstitutionalization of persons with developmental disabilities, she worked to stop the practice of sterilizating persons with disabilities without their consent. Mattison also worked to assist parents secure appropriate educational placements; and she was involved in cases aimed at preventing the use of aversive behavioral interventions, such as contingent electronic shock on children with special needs. In 1993, Mattison was presented with a House and a Senate Resolution from the Michigan Legislature honoring her work in these areas.

 

In 1993, Mattison moved to Birmingham. Prior to moving, Ms. Mattison searched for the firm in Alabama which was best-suited to enable her to continue working on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. After meeting with several firms, Mattison joined the Wiggins Childs team because of its historic track record supporting social justice. The ADA had just been enacted and Mattison began representing employees with disabilities in employment disputes, while continuing to represent children. Mattison’s work representing children has been praised by other attorneys, including those representing school districts, and by federal judges.

McGinley shares Mattison’s commitment to social justice. After graduating from law school at the University of Alabama, McGinley worked for Legal Services of Alabama, providing free legal representation in civil matter for individuals with low incomes. She joined Wiggins Childs in 2007 and has advocated on behalf individuals in employment discrimination matters as well as in the area of education. McGinley says one of the more rewarding aspects of her practice with Mattison is the ability to give a voice to the under-served and under-appreciated members of our community.

 

The current primary focus of attorneys Mattison and McGinley is representing the parents of children with disabilities in order to assist in securing a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for the student. According to Mattison and McGinley, most parents come to Wiggins Childs because they feel “something is wrong” with their child’s educational program and they feel they are not being heard by the school district. There are few attorneys in Alabama practicing on behalf of parents in school matters; and these cases typically are highly technical, requiring a good understanding of both the law and the pedagogy appropriate to serve children with differing abilities. Some common examples of the issues they deal with include:

 

• The failure of schools to identify children with disabilities;
• A lack of comprehensive evaluations—which makes it hard to develop an appropriate educational program;
• Children with behavior problems who lack sufficient positive behavioral support;
• Children with autism, who do not have remedial services to address their condition; and,
• Children with reading disorders who lack a remedial reading program designed to meet their unique needs.

 

Mattison and McGinley explain that this type of legal work typically involves an extensive review of a student’s records, communication with the district and parent to determine each parties’ objectives, securing any needed assessments and, hopefully, working with a school district to design an appropriate program. In the event that a case cannot be resolved, IDEA and Section 504 contain strong procedural safeguards for parents, including the right to a due process hearing and an appeal, generally to federal court. Both Mattison and McGinley have had to pursue formal remedies to secure their clients’ objectives.

After 38 years of practice, Deb Mattison’s working philosophy is uniquely constructive:

 

“Educating children with disabilities is hard work. We did not– as a society– routinely attempt this endeavor until IDEA and Section 504 were passed in the mid 1970s. There is still far too little funding for education and, frankly, the research as to ‘what works’ can be lacking as it relates to certain disabilities. In my experience, the vast majority of educators are hard working caring professionals. I believe that most educators would be excited to better serve children if they had the resources and/or had access to better methodology. I see my job as trying to identify the weakness and strengths in a child’s program and then to secure the resources necessary to assist both my clients and the educators in delivering an appropriate program.”

 

Its obvious that Deb Mattison and Rachel McGinley love their work. They are especially proud when their work not only enables a child to be successful in school, but also gives that child’s family a better understanding of their rights and enables that family to better advocate for the child in the future. Mattison and McGinley look forward to continuing to assure that all children, regardless of the type or severity of their disabilities, receive an educational program which will enable each child to flourish.

practice area photo of lobby

Back to School with Section 504 and the ADA

Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb, LLC takes great pride in the diversity of our representation. One of these areas involves the representation of children with disabilities in securing non-discriminatory placements as well as a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and other services, in accordance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400, et. seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), 29 U.S.C. 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et. seq. Deborah Mattison works with Rachel McGinley to assure that such children receive the individualized instruction and related services to which they are entitled. Attorneys Mattison and McGinley’s practice also includes other related matters involving children with disabilities and their families, such as redressing harassment, bullying, and other discrimination.

 

Attorney Mattison’s legal background is unique. Upon graduating from the Antioch School of Law in 1980 in Michigan with a focus in social justice, Mattison worked for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, a private non-profit agency dedicated to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Ultimately Mattison became the Legal Director for the agency. There she focused on social justice issues involving persons with disabilities. In addition to her advocacy related to the deinstitutionalization of persons with developmental disabilities, she worked to stop the practice of sterilizating persons with disabilities without their consent. Mattison also worked to assist parents secure appropriate educational placements; and she was involved in cases aimed at preventing the use of aversive behavioral interventions, such as contingent electronic shock on children with special needs. In 1993, Mattison was presented with a House and a Senate Resolution from the Michigan Legislature honoring her work in these areas.

 

In 1993, Mattison moved to Birmingham. Prior to moving, Ms. Mattison searched for the firm in Alabama which was best-suited to enable her to continue working on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. After meeting with several firms, Mattison joined the Wiggins Childs team because of its historic track record supporting social justice. The ADA had just been enacted and Mattison began representing employees with disabilities in employment disputes, while continuing to represent children. Mattison’s work representing children has been praised by other attorneys, including those representing school districts, and by federal judges.

McGinley shares Mattison’s commitment to social justice. After graduating from law school at the University of Alabama, McGinley worked for Legal Services of Alabama, providing free legal representation in civil matter for individuals with low incomes. She joined Wiggins Childs in 2007 and has advocated on behalf individuals in employment discrimination matters as well as in the area of education. McGinley says one of the more rewarding aspects of her practice with Mattison is the ability to give a voice to the under-served and under-appreciated members of our community.

 

The current primary focus of attorneys Mattison and McGinley is representing the parents of children with disabilities in order to assist in securing a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for the student. According to Mattison and McGinley, most parents come to Wiggins Childs because they feel “something is wrong” with their child’s educational program and they feel they are not being heard by the school district. There are few attorneys in Alabama practicing on behalf of parents in school matters; and these cases typically are highly technical, requiring a good understanding of both the law and the pedagogy appropriate to serve children with differing abilities. Some common examples of the issues they deal with include:

 

• The failure of schools to identify children with disabilities;
• A lack of comprehensive evaluations—which makes it hard to develop an appropriate educational program;
• Children with behavior problems who lack sufficient positive behavioral support;
• Children with autism, who do not have remedial services to address their condition; and,
• Children with reading disorders who lack a remedial reading program designed to meet their unique needs.

 

Mattison and McGinley explain that this type of legal work typically involves an extensive review of a student’s records, communication with the district and parent to determine each parties’ objectives, securing any needed assessments and, hopefully, working with a school district to design an appropriate program. In the event that a case cannot be resolved, IDEA and Section 504 contain strong procedural safeguards for parents, including the right to a due process hearing and an appeal, generally to federal court. Both Mattison and McGinley have had to pursue formal remedies to secure their clients’ objectives.

After 38 years of practice, Deb Mattison’s working philosophy is uniquely constructive:

 

“Educating children with disabilities is hard work. We did not– as a society– routinely attempt this endeavor until IDEA and Section 504 were passed in the mid 1970s. There is still far too little funding for education and, frankly, the research as to ‘what works’ can be lacking as it relates to certain disabilities. In my experience, the vast majority of educators are hard working caring professionals. I believe that most educators would be excited to better serve children if they had the resources and/or had access to better methodology. I see my job as trying to identify the weakness and strengths in a child’s program and then to secure the resources necessary to assist both my clients and the educators in delivering an appropriate program.”

 

Its obvious that Deb Mattison and Rachel McGinley love their work. They are especially proud when their work not only enables a child to be successful in school, but also gives that child’s family a better understanding of their rights and enables that family to better advocate for the child in the future. Mattison and McGinley look forward to continuing to assure that all children, regardless of the type or severity of their disabilities, receive an educational program which will enable each child to flourish.

practice area photo of lobby

Back to School with Section 504 and the ADA

Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb, LLC takes great pride in the diversity of our representation. One of these areas involves the representation of children with disabilities in securing non-discriminatory placements as well as a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and other services, in accordance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400, et. seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), 29 U.S.C. 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et. seq. Deborah Mattison works with Rachel McGinley to assure that such children receive the individualized instruction and related services to which they are entitled. Attorneys Mattison and McGinley’s practice also includes other related matters involving children with disabilities and their families, such as redressing harassment, bullying, and other discrimination.

 

Attorney Mattison’s legal background is unique. Upon graduating from the Antioch School of Law in 1980 in Michigan with a focus in social justice, Mattison worked for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, a private non-profit agency dedicated to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Ultimately Mattison became the Legal Director for the agency. There she focused on social justice issues involving persons with disabilities. In addition to her advocacy related to the deinstitutionalization of persons with developmental disabilities, she worked to stop the practice of sterilizating persons with disabilities without their consent. Mattison also worked to assist parents secure appropriate educational placements; and she was involved in cases aimed at preventing the use of aversive behavioral interventions, such as contingent electronic shock on children with special needs. In 1993, Mattison was presented with a House and a Senate Resolution from the Michigan Legislature honoring her work in these areas.

 

In 1993, Mattison moved to Birmingham. Prior to moving, Ms. Mattison searched for the firm in Alabama which was best-suited to enable her to continue working on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. After meeting with several firms, Mattison joined the Wiggins Childs team because of its historic track record supporting social justice. The ADA had just been enacted and Mattison began representing employees with disabilities in employment disputes, while continuing to represent children. Mattison’s work representing children has been praised by other attorneys, including those representing school districts, and by federal judges.

McGinley shares Mattison’s commitment to social justice. After graduating from law school at the University of Alabama, McGinley worked for Legal Services of Alabama, providing free legal representation in civil matter for individuals with low incomes. She joined Wiggins Childs in 2007 and has advocated on behalf individuals in employment discrimination matters as well as in the area of education. McGinley says one of the more rewarding aspects of her practice with Mattison is the ability to give a voice to the under-served and under-appreciated members of our community.

 

The current primary focus of attorneys Mattison and McGinley is representing the parents of children with disabilities in order to assist in securing a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for the student. According to Mattison and McGinley, most parents come to Wiggins Childs because they feel “something is wrong” with their child’s educational program and they feel they are not being heard by the school district. There are few attorneys in Alabama practicing on behalf of parents in school matters; and these cases typically are highly technical, requiring a good understanding of both the law and the pedagogy appropriate to serve children with differing abilities. Some common examples of the issues they deal with include:

 

• The failure of schools to identify children with disabilities;
• A lack of comprehensive evaluations—which makes it hard to develop an appropriate educational program;
• Children with behavior problems who lack sufficient positive behavioral support;
• Children with autism, who do not have remedial services to address their condition; and,
• Children with reading disorders who lack a remedial reading program designed to meet their unique needs.

 

Mattison and McGinley explain that this type of legal work typically involves an extensive review of a student’s records, communication with the district and parent to determine each parties’ objectives, securing any needed assessments and, hopefully, working with a school district to design an appropriate program. In the event that a case cannot be resolved, IDEA and Section 504 contain strong procedural safeguards for parents, including the right to a due process hearing and an appeal, generally to federal court. Both Mattison and McGinley have had to pursue formal remedies to secure their clients’ objectives.

After 38 years of practice, Deb Mattison’s working philosophy is uniquely constructive:

 

“Educating children with disabilities is hard work. We did not– as a society– routinely attempt this endeavor until IDEA and Section 504 were passed in the mid 1970s. There is still far too little funding for education and, frankly, the research as to ‘what works’ can be lacking as it relates to certain disabilities. In my experience, the vast majority of educators are hard working caring professionals. I believe that most educators would be excited to better serve children if they had the resources and/or had access to better methodology. I see my job as trying to identify the weakness and strengths in a child’s program and then to secure the resources necessary to assist both my clients and the educators in delivering an appropriate program.”

 

Its obvious that Deb Mattison and Rachel McGinley love their work. They are especially proud when their work not only enables a child to be successful in school, but also gives that child’s family a better understanding of their rights and enables that family to better advocate for the child in the future. Mattison and McGinley look forward to continuing to assure that all children, regardless of the type or severity of their disabilities, receive an educational program which will enable each child to flourish.

Pending Litigation in the District Court for the District of Columbia

Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak, 1:99CV02979 (EGS) 

MAJOR NEW DEVELOPMENTS

  • CLASS CERTIFICATION HAS BEEN DENIED BY THE DISTRICT COURT
  • AMTRAK REQUESTS SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS – TO COMMENCE THIS AUTUMN
  • PLAINTIFFS’ CASES WILL PROCEED INDIVIDUALLY
  • NEW PLAINTIFFS CAN BE INCLUDED IN SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS – MOST NEED TO ACT BY OCTOBER 9, 2018
  • ALL STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS TOLLED BY PARTIES’ AGREEMENT

On April 26, 2018, the District Court for the District of Columbia suddenly canceled the May 11, 2018 hearing that it had recently scheduled, and issued a 107-page ruling on class certification and other related issues.  Most significantly, the Court DENIED class certification entirely.  This means that the claims of African-American employees and applicants who believe they were discriminated against by Amtrak in promotions, hiring, training, terminations, and discipline, will be litigated individually.

Importantly, this also means that, other the 71 named plaintiffs already in Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak, any other African-American employee, former employee, or applicant who was a putative class member in Campbell – in other words, anyone else who wants to have his or her employment race discrimination claim adjudicated – will either have to join Campbell or else file his or her own new case in court.

The Court also ruled that the Campbell Plaintiffs cannot proceed with a “disparate treatment” theory.  This result was not surprising in view of the decision denying class certification.

Here are links to the full text of the District Court’s class certification denial order in Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak, 1:99CV02979 (EGS), and the District Court’s 107-page ruling.

However, after the class certification ruling, Amtrak offered to commence settlement negotiations to try to avoid more litigation – and we have accepted.  Settlement negotiations aimed at a comprehensive global settlement of the entire Campbell litigation will commence in the fall.  

In order to begin settlement negotiations, a number of important things must be done.

  1. As part of the agreement to being negotiations, we insisted, and Amtrak agreed, that all statutes of limitation for filing new cases in court or EEOC charges be tolled – that is, stayed – until October 9, 2018.  This means that we must have everything filed in Court by that date. To participate in the Campbell v. Amtrak case, we must confirm with you by Monday, October 1, 2018 that you want to be in the case.  This can be done by phone or email.  In addition, you must 1) sign a retainer agreement, and 2) complete the New Client Questionnaire before October 9, 2018.  Please understand that there is a legal deadline of October 9, 2018, so your claims may not be included if you do not notify your attorneys by October 1, 2018 of your intent to join. (If, by operation of law, your own particular time to file an EEOC charge or a lawsuit is later than that date, for example, if your claims arose very recently, then you would still have until your later date.)
  2. Former putative class members, in other words, African-American employees at Amtrak in union-represented jobs (other than BMWE-represented workers in the Northeast Corridor), and African-American applicants for such jobs, do not need to formally join Campbell, or file their own cases, until AFTER the settlement negotiations are completed (assuming no settlement is reached), provided they are represented by Campbell plaintiffs’ counsel.
    1. The parties agreed that such persons can be included in the settlement negotiations as long as they are represented by Campbell plaintiffs’ counsel so that we do not have to go through the formal court filings to add plaintiffs. Amtrak is reserving its rights to challenge joinder of any person on legal grounds, should the settlement negotiations fail.
    2. Thus, to be included in the settlement negotiations process, all you have to do is to sign a retainer agreement with Campbell plaintiffs’ counsel.
    3. All statutes of limitations are tolled – beyond the October 9, 2018 date mentioned above – throughout the pendency of the settlement negotiations for all such persons who retain the Campbell plaintiffs’ attorneys.
  3. The parties have agreed to use the services of a mediator this fall. If she is available and willing, the parties will be bringing in Linda Singer of JAMS, who successfully mediated the settlements of the first two cases of the “Amtrak Trilogy.”
  4. The parties will be reporting regularly to the District Court regarding the procedures and progress of the settlement negotiations.
  5. Much communication with existing Campbell plaintiffs and with new Campbell plaintiffs will have to occur in the coming weeks in order to prepare for settlement negotiations.
    1. A questionnaire will be sent to new plaintiffs so that their employment history with Amtrak and their race discrimination claims and their damages are fully understood. We will ask for documents as well.
    2. There will be a great deal of dialogue, including “town hall” style meetings or conference calls with existing and new plaintiffs, and questionnaires, in order to understand everyone’s views on settlement.
  6. Importantly, your individual claims are yours and only you can decide whether or not to settle them. On the other hand, if we do not get full agreement, it is unlikely any settlement will come to fruition.  We have a plan for how to handle this and we will explain it to you in detail.  Our goal must be to have everyone on our side and in agreement on our approach – and then we get to the hard part – getting Amtrak to agree!  If we all pull together, WE CAN DO THIS!
  7. We all must realize that every settlement is a compromise. In a settlement, no one ever gets everything they want.  We must enter into this process committed to understanding that basic principle.
  8. The settlement negotiations will be a process that will take time. We ask for your patience yet again.  However, compared to the long wait we have endured during litigation, this process will move rapidly.  We expect the negotiations to occur over the fall and possibly extend into the winter.
  9. All clients must be involved and engaged and committed to this process. Some will work with the lawyers directly.  But we value everyone’s input and communication.  And remember, this is a confidential process, so we need to have your good contact information, especially email addresses, so that we can communicate effectively.  This webpage will be used for major announcements, but it is publicly accessible, and thus, will not be used for confidential, attorney-client communications.
  10. Right now, we need your help! We want to make sure everyone who has suffered race discrimination at Amtrak since 1996 is able to participate.
    1. Please use all your networking resources to get the word out to your African-American co-workers at Amtrak (in union-represented jobs other than track workers in the NE Corridor) who may want to participate in Campbell. And don’t forget the unsuccessful job applicants, if you know any – they can be part of Campbell, too.
    2. Tell interested people to contact us and get the information they need to join, if they want to. The Campbell “train leaves the station” on October 9, 2018.

Here are additional links to our reports to the District Court regarding tolling the statutes of limitation and the commencement of settlement negotiations.

Stipulation of Tolling of Statutes of Limitation filed July 11, 2018    

Joint Status Report regarding Settlement Negotiations filed July 30, 2018

The following is a quote that Campbell attorney Timothy Fleming gave to Law360, a legal publication, after the class certification denial:

“Today’s decision is disappointing, certainly.  Yet, we have a very resilient and determined group of African-American plaintiffs and co-workers who have persevered for almost 20 years in this case while bravely standing up for equality in Amtrak workplaces all across the country.  We have great respect for this Court, and so we will now study its decision and plan our next steps in the litigation.  We look forward to continuing the fight for workplace justice and equality.”

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

Wiggins Childs telephone # dedicated to Campbell v. Amtrak callers: (205)458-1210
Email:  campbellvamtrak@wigginschilds.com

Campbell lead attorney in D.C.:  Timothy Fleming, of counsel

Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher Goldfarb, PLLC
1211 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Suite 420
Washington, D.C. 20036

Campbell attorney in Birmingham office:  Sandra Duca, of counsel

Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher Goldfarb, LLC
The Kress Building
301 19th Street North
Birmingham, AL 35203

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