Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: How does my receipt of SSD or SSDI benefits affect my ability to prove a disability discrimination claim? How is “disability” defined for purposes of SSD or SSDI benefits? Is the definition or requirements for a “disability” under SSD or SSDI different than the ADA or Ohio law? How do I find the best wrongful termination lawyer in Ohio?
All employees are protected under Americans With Disabilities Act and Ohio R.C. § 4112.02(A) from being discriminated against or retaliated against by their employers on the basis of their actual or perceived disability. These laws also prohibit employers from making pre-employment, disability-related inquiries of job applicants.
For purposes of a disability discrimination claim under the ADA or R.C. § 4112.02, the employee must be able to demonstrate that he or she is a “qualified individual with a disability,” which is defined by the ADA as a disabled person “who can perform the essential functions” of her job, including those who can do so only “with reasonable accommodation.”
So what if you are fired by your employer, and thereafter, you decide to apply for SSDI benefits? In order to receive SSDI benefits, the individual must certify that he or she is “disabled” in some form or capacity. However, in order to be “disabled” for SSDI purposes, an applicant must be incapable of performing her “past relevant work,” and she be found unable to perform any other job existing in significant numbers in the nation’s economy. Noticeably, the definition fails to mention “reasonable accommodation”.
As you would expect, based on these differing definitions, Ohio state and federal courts have litigated the issue of whether an employee can (1) receive SSDI benefits and (2) maintain a disability discrimination claim against a former employer. Indeed, in 2012, the Southern District Court of Ohio discussed this issue in Lowe v. Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services and denied the employer’s supplemental motion for summary judgment as to a former employee’s disability discrimination claim. In Lowe, the record indicated that the plaintiff had received SSDI benefits, both during and after being terminated from her employment, and as part of its motion for summary judgment, the employer argued that the employee was estopped from establishing that she was a “qualified” employee under the ADA since she already certified to the Social Security Administration that she was “disabled” for purposes of her SSDI benefits.
The Court rejected the employer’s argument and pointed to Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., wherein the United States Supreme Court held that plaintiffs who filed for SSDI were not automatically estopped from establishing that they were qualified employees under the ADA. Specifically, the Court in Cleveland held, “When the SSA determines whether the individual is disabled for SSDI purposes, it does not take the possibility of ‘reasonable accommodation’ into account, nor need an applicant refer to the possibility of reasonable accommodation when she applies for SSDI.” Thus, according to the Court, a plaintiff with an “ADA suit claiming that the plaintiff can perform her job with reasonable accommodation may well prove consistent with an SSDI claim that the plaintiff could not perform her own job (or other jobs) without it.”
Based on these holdings, just because you apply for and receive social security disability benefits following a termination does not mean, by itself, that you are precluded from suing your former employer for disability discrimination.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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