Living with a disability can be challenging in many respects as individuals attempt to navigate their increasingly limited ability to work and the response of their employers. Some people may need to seek disability benefits to compensate for lost work time while also facing the prospect of possible discrimination in the workplace. This can be a very complicated area of the law, and a lawsuit against an employer may have an unintended impact on an SSDI claim. At Kantrovitz & Associates, our Social Security attorneys have over two decades of experience helping Massachusetts residents fight for their rights in the courtroom and pursue the disability benefits that they deserve.Disability Discrimination
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who have a disability. This includes firing a worker on the basis of a protected condition or denying someone a benefit or promotion to which he or she is entitled. Moreover, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities as long as such arrangements do not create an undue hardship.
If a disabled worker experiences discrimination in the workplace, such as being denied a raise or being fired because of limitations imposed by the condition, the ADA allows an individual to bring a lawsuit to assert his or her rights. However, in order to do so, the disabled employee must show that he or she was qualified for the position or benefit that was denied and that he or she is currently able to perform the essential job duties. These requirements can conflict with an SSDI application.Balancing ADA Protections and SSDI Applications
Determining whether an individual can apply for SSDI benefits while raising a disability discrimination claim under the ADA is a difficult task. Applying for this type of government assistance typically requires a worker to show that his or her condition makes employment impossible, or will make it impossible, for a period of at least 12 months. However, a disability discrimination claim requires an individual to establish that he or she is willing and able to complete the requisite job functions, although reasonable accommodations may be needed. Thus, on the one hand the disabled worker must establish that he or she is unable to work, while simultaneously showing that work would be possible if an employer could meet the requirements of the ADA.
Although older court decisions held that these two types of claims could not coexist, the Supreme Court determined otherwise in the important decision of Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corporation. In that case, the Court overruled previous rulings and held that an application for SSDI benefits did not necessarily prevent an individual from bringing a claim under the ADA. Instead, the Supreme Court stated that it is necessary for courts to explore any contradictions between an individual’s application for disability assistance and a discrimination claim. If an employee asserts a total and complete disability, this may forestall a lawsuit under the ADA. However, it is also possible that a worker may have a legitimate discrimination claim because an employer failed to make a reasonable accommodation for the disability, and also have a valid SSDI claim because the applicant is unable to work without the requested accommodation. In this situation, the applicant is not claiming that he or she could never work, but merely that work is impossible without the employer addressing the discrimination issue.
For Massachusetts residents contemplating an SSDI claim and a disability discrimination lawsuit simultaneously, the Supreme Court’s holding offers an avenue for relief, but it can be difficult to achieve. For this reason, it is important to consider contacting a skilled disability benefits attorney who understands the complexities of pursuing the two claims at once.Consult a Government Benefits Attorney in Massachusetts
At Kantrovitz & Associates, our government benefits lawyers have helped countless Massachusetts claimants navigate the complexities of applications for SSDI benefits. With our thorough knowledge of the law, we can help you prepare a strong case for pursuing the financial assistance that you need. We proudly represent clients near Boston and throughout Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Essex, and Middlesex Counties. For a free initial consultation, contact us at (800) 367-0871 or through our online form.