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Disabled former employees can’t recover benefits under ADA unless they seek rehire

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

In a common-sense decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Ohio employers, has ruled that former employees who are disabled cannot sue their former employers under the ADA to recover retirement benefits that were reduced because they received Social Security disability payments from the federal government.

The court said that only former employees who are disabled and who seek a new job or reinstatement to an old job (perhaps with reasonable accommodations) could sue under the ADA.

Recent case: Former General Motors employees LeRoy McKnight, Nicholas Klayo and Robert Griffin accepted early retirement packages from the company, an option provided under the terms of GM’s pension plan. Each was disabled in some way, and each applied for and received federal Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB).

On a dollar-for-dollar basis, GM’s retirement plan started offsetting some of the Social Security supplemental benefits that otherwise would have been payable under the terms of the retirement plan.

The men sued, alleging that the plan violated the ADA because it singled out for lower pension payments those who are disabled. That, they said, amounted to out-and-out disability discrimination.

GM countered that former employees who are disabled aren’t covered by the ADA and can’t sue for allegedly discriminatory benefits.

The court agreed, siding with several other circuit courts of appeals. It dismissed the men’s case. (Other circuits have come to the opposite conclusion.) The court did say, however, that former employees who applied for new jobs would be covered. (McKnight, et al., v. General Motors Corporation, No. 07-1479, 6th Cir., 2008)

Final note:
No word yet if the men will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could sort out the split among appeals courts.

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