Disabled Social Security employees' lawsuit advances

Plaintiffs allege the Social Security Administration thwarted promotions of disabled workers

August 30, 2010|By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

A group of disabled workers is moving forward with a class-action lawsuit against the Social Security Administration alleging the federal agency discriminates against employees with disabilities by denying or limiting promotions.

An office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Aug. 25 affirmed a 2008 decision by an EEOC administrative judge that certified the case as a class action, attorneys for the plaintiffs said Monday. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and other damages as well as changes in policies and procedures that will improve career opportunities for disabled employees, according attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The federal agency could not be reached late Monday for comment.

The plaintiffs, roughly 2,000 current and former Social Security employees with disabilities, include those who applied for promotions on or after Aug. 22, 2005, and appeared on a government "best qualified" list but were denied promotions. Their disabilities include deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorders, mental retardation, mental illness and conditions affecting limbs or spine.

Ronald Jantz, a deaf Social Security employee who initially filed the lawsuit, has worked for the agency for more than 20 years and repeatedly made the "best qualified" list when applying numerous times for promotions.

"Nonetheless, he has never been promoted during his entire, 20-year career," said Dan Goldstein, a partner with Brown Goldstein & Levy LLP in Baltimore, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs. "Unhappily, what I am describing … is not peculiar to Mr. Jantz but is an experience that many Social Security employees with disabilities have experienced."

Jantz, a management analyst from Woodlawn, said in a statement he hopes the case brings a change in policies.

"I brought this lawsuit to bring about change necessary to ensure that employees with targeted disabilities receive the same promotions and career advancement opportunities as non-disabled employees," he said.

An administrative judge with the EEOC certified the case as a class action on Oct. 8, 2008. Social Security appealed that decision in December 2008. Last week, the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations, the commission's appellate unit, affirmed the administrative judge's decision. The case will now be remanded to an administrative judge for trial.

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