SSDI Benefits and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is designed to provide monthly benefits to Americans who have worked for enough years and paid enough taxes to have paid into the system and then become disabled so they can no longer work.  The SSDI program is administered by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA).

1078874_word_work_on_the_dices-300x214The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) is a federal law designed to provide various rights to persons with disabilities, require employers to comply with certain requirements, and to provide method to obtain a remedy when the rules are not followed.  In many cases, someone can a file a lawsuit in federal court under the ADA and request monetary damages.  

However, what happens if a person is disabled and applied for SSDI benefits, but also files an action claiming an ADA violation.  While you may not see any way in which these two things are related, a recent news story features the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and looks at case in which an employer argued that a case should be dismissed because the plaintiff had already been approved for Social Security disability benefits, and somehow this should preclude her from also pursuing an ADA claim against her employer.

In this case, the employee was working at the same government office for many years when she began to suffer a variety of health issues.  It is her claim that the illnesses were a result of the mold and fungus she discovered in her office along with overall poor ventilation in her work space. She asked her employer to move her to a different office, and they agreed and relocated her.  She said that after the move, her health seemed to get better.

However, the following year, she was informed that she would have to move back to her old office that made her sick. At this point, she went to her doctor and had an evaluation.  Her doctor did not see a connection with her previous conditions and the office in which she was working and said she could return to work in her normal capacity with no restrictions.   At this point, her employer told her that she had to go back to her old office or she would receive some type of disciplinary sanction.

She first used up all of her Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave she had accumulated and then retired for medical reasons two months prior to the period in which she could retire with full benefits.  She also applied for SSDI benefits and was found to be disabled.  She then sued her employer under the ADA on grounds that they essentially forced her into retirement by not making reasonable accommodations for her disability. Her employer claimed that because she had applied for and received SSDI benefits, she was precluded from filing an action under the ADA.  The court did not agree and dismissed defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Specifically, the court found that pursuit and receipt of SSDI was not an automatic bar to filling an ADA claim for benefits from employer, as was the case here.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Receipt of SSDI Benefits Does Not Provide a Basis for Dismissal of ADA Claim, April 21, 2016, SHRM, By Scott Johnson Jr.

More Blog Entries:

Mabry v. Colvin: Social Security Disability for Mental Illness, March 27, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog

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