Settlement Agreement Between The United States Of America And The State Of New Jersey, Department Of Human Services, Division Of Family Development

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COMPLAINT NUMBER 204-48-220

BACKGROUND

1. This Settlement Agreement is made and entered into by the United States of America (“United States”), and the State of New Jersey, Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development (“DFD”), to resolve an investigation undertaken by the United States Department of Justice (“Department”) under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 (“ADA”), and the Department’s regulation implementing title II, 28 C.F.R. Part 35. The DFD receives federal funding to implement the Food Stamp Program which is administered in New Jersey by local government agencies such as the Hudson County Board of Social Services. The investigation concerned allegations that the DFD and Hudson County’s Board of Social Services failed to provide effective communication for the complainant during two meetings she was required to attend.

2. The parties to this Agreement, the United States and the DFD have agreed to settle these matters without resolving the factual and legal disputes regarding the lawfulness of the DFD’s actions. This Agreement does not constitute an admission of liability and/or fault on the part of the DFD. The parties enter into this Settlement Agreement in the interests of securing compliance by voluntary means, and agree to the following:

JURISDICTION

3. The DFD is an agency of the State of New Jersey and is, therefore, a public entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §1213(1)(B) and 28 C.F.R. §35.104. As such, the DFD must comply with the provisions of title II of the ADA.

4. The Department is authorized to investigate the complaint in this matter in order to determine whether the DFD acted in compliance with title II and the Department’s regulation implementing title II, to issue findings, and, where appropriate, to negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized, under 42 U.S.C. § 12133, to bring a civil action enforcing title II of the ADA should the Department fail to secure voluntary compliance. 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.172 and 35.190(6).

5. The DFD enters into this Settlement Agreement voluntarily and without waiving its right to challenge the Department’s jurisdiction over the DFD in future proceedings.

6. The DFD maintains that it does not waive any possible 11th Amendment immunity by entering into this Agreement. The United States maintains that the DFD has no 11th Amendment immunity from actions by the Federal Government to enforce Federal law.

Policies, Practices and Procedures for Requesting and Providing Auxiliary Aids and Services

7. The DFD will, within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, instruct local government agencies that administer federal benefits programs that they are required under the ADA to furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary to afford an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of the DFD’s services, programs, or activities. Auxiliary aids and services include qualified sign language interpreters, written material, and note pad and pen.

8. The DFD will, within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, develop and implement policies, practices and procedures to ensure that individuals or their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing, when communicating with employees of the DFD or any persons designated to carry out any responsibilities of the DFD are provided with auxiliary aids and services that afford effective communication. These policies, practices and procedures shall be added, in writing, to existing policies, practices and procedures and shall be distributed to every local agency which administers programs for the DFD. A copy of these policies, practices and procedures will be submitted to the Department, for informational purposes, within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement.

Training

9. Within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the DFD will institute a policy requiring all DFD employees and local agency employees who have contact with the public as a part of their job duties be trained on their responsibilities and duties under the ADA. A copy of the training material shall be submitted to the Department for informational purposes as well as a schedule of training date(s), within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement.

Reimbursement of Payment

10. Within 60 days of the DFD's receipt of the signed release from the complainant (Attachment A to this Agreement), the DFD will reimburse the complainant in the amount of $2426 by certified check. This dollar amount represents the funds paid to the Hudson County Board of Social Services, which lead to the present complaint. Within 15 days of sending the certified check to the complainant, the DFD will transmit a copy of the check and its cover transmittal communication to the Department as specified in Paragraph 19 below.

IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THIS AGREEMENT

11. If the United States believes that this Agreement, or any provision of it has been violated, the Department shall promptly notify the DFD in writing of the nature of the alleged violation(s). Within fifteen business days of receiving the Department’s notice, the DFD shall either satisfy the Department that no such violation has taken place or cure any such violation in a manner agreeable to the Department. In each instance where the Department determines that a violation of this Agreement has taken place and such a violation has not been cured within the fifteen business-day period specified in this Paragraph, or in any instance where the DFD fails to respond to the Department’s notice indicating that it believes a violation has taken place, the Department may bring a civil action in the United States District Court to enforce this Agreement or title II.

12. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision of it with regard to any deadline or any other provision contained herein shall not be construed as a waiver of the Department’s right to do so.

13. This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained therein shall be made available to any person upon request by both the DFD and the United States.

14. This Agreement, including the exhibits attached hereto, constitutes the entire Agreement among the Parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or the agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, shall be enforceable. In the event a court of competent jurisdiction concludes that any part of this Agreement is unenforceable, such portion shall be severed from this Agreement and all other portions of the Agreement shall remain enforceable.

15. This Agreement is limited to the DFD’s provision of effective communication for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing who seek to use any services, programs and activities it has responsibility for. It does not deal with the policies and practices of the DFD in general nor does it in any way limit its responsibility to bring all of its policies, practices, and procedures into compliance with the ADA.

16. The Parties hereby represent and acknowledge that this Agreement is given and executed voluntarily and is not based upon any representation by any of the Parties to another Party as to the merits, legal liability, or value of any claims of the Parties or any matters related thereto.

17. The Parties acknowledge that they have been afforded an opportunity to consider this Agreement and the terms and conditions set forth herein, and that they have read and understood the terms of this Agreement and have been given an opportunity to consult with their respective counsel prior to executing this Agreement.

18. A signer of this document, in a representative capacity for the DFD and the United States, represents that he or she is authorized to bind such entity to this Agreement.

19. In any instance where notice is required to be given to any or all of the parties to this Agreement, such notice shall be provided in writing, sent via certified or registered U.S. Mail, return receipt requested, to the following individuals in their capacity as representatives of the Parties:

Division of Family
Development: Jeanette Page-Hawkins
Acting Director
Division of Family Development
6 Quakerbridge Plaza
P.O. Box 716
Trenton, NJ 08619

The United States: John L. Wodatch,
Section Chief
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section-NYA
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

20. This Agreement may be executed in several counterparts, each of which shall be an original and shall constitute one and the same instrument. All exhibits hereto are hereby incorporated by specific reference into this Agreement, and their terms are made a part of this Agreement as though fully recited herein.

21. This Agreement will remain in effect for one year from the effective date of this Agreement, or when both parties agree that full compliance with this Agreement by the DFD has been achieved, whichever is earlier.

22. The date this Agreement becomes effective is the date of the last signature below.


FOR THE UNITED STATES

R. Alexander Acosta
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

By:
Date John L. Wodatch, Chief
Mary Lou Mobley, Acting Deputy Chief
Naomi H. Milton, Supervisory Attorney
Charles Harvey, Investigator
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section-NYA
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

FOR THE NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF FAMILY DEVELOPMENT

By:
Date
Jeanette Page-Hawkins
Acting Director
Division of Family Development



Attachment A

RELEASE

1. The Releasor, the complainant in Department of Justice complaint number 204-48-220, is referred to as "I", and the Releasee, the State of New Jersey, Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development, is referred to as "You".

2. Release. I, __________________________ release and give up any and all claims and rights which I may have against you. This releases all claims, including those of which I am not aware and those not mentioned in this Release. This Release applied to claims resulting from anything which has happened up to now and specifically as full payment and satisfaction for any and all claims resulting from Department of Justice Complaint Number 204-48-220. This release includes, but is not limited to, all claims under: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the Americans Equal Pay Act, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Service Act and its regulations, the Handicapped, Blind, or Deaf Persons Civil Rights Law, the Developmentally Disabled Rights Act, the Alcoholism Treatment and Rehabilitation Act, the Education Code, public works statutes, the Public Transportation Act, the Right to Know Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the New Jersey Smoking Act, wages and hour laws, unemployment compensation, disability benefits laws, workers compensation, the U.S. Constitution, the New Jersey Constitution, tort law or contract law, and any claims at common law.

3. Payment. I will be paid a total of TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY SIX DOLLARS ($2426), in full payment for making this Release. I agree that I will not seek anything further including any other payment from you.

4. Attorneys' fees: This release includes all claims for attorneys' fees and costs.

5. No Admission of Liability: Releasee admits no liability concerning any of the claims released.

6. Who is Bound. I am bound by this Release. Anyone who succeeds to my rights and responsibilities, such as my heirs or the executor of my estate, is also bound. This Release is made for your benefit and all who succeed to your rights and responsibilities.

5. Signatures. I understand and agree to the terms of this Release.

Witnessed or Attested by.

_____________________________ _______________________(SEAL)


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Updated August 6, 2015

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