Your Disability Benefits Application and Your Case

disability-benefits-employment-lawAn employee who is out on disability leave may find himself in a position where on one hand he tells his employer than he is able or will shortly be able to return to work with accommodations. At the same time, the employee may apply for Social Security disability benefits while out on leave and tell the Social Security Administration office that he is unable to work and therefore should be entitled to social security disability benefits. If the employee is terminated around that time, and the employer argues that it had the right to terminate him and did not have to accommodate his disability because that employee was actually unable to work, as he stated to the Social Security office, this doesn’t necessarily get the employer off the hook.

With respect to statements made to the Social Security Administration, the statements made for the purposes of securing disability benefits, describing why the claimant is too disabled to work, do not necessarily bar the disabled individual from claiming in an ADA case that he can perform the essential functions of his job. Cleveland v Policy Mgmt. Sys. Corp., 526 U.S. 795 (1999).

Where a case involves an apparent conflict between the two statements, the employee must offer some explanation for the inconsistency. A pure factual inconsistent statement (i.e. lying) can alone be grounds for dismissing ADA discrimination action. For instance, if an employee tells the Social Security office, EDD (or any other disability benefits handling office) that he is unable to stand or walk and then he claims in his lawsuit that he is able to stand and walk, that would be a direct factual contradiction that may result in a case dismissal on summary judgment. (See Mitchell v. Washingtonville Cent. Sch. Dist. (1999)).

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