SSA Class Action Case Nears Resolution

An administrative judge with the EEOC recently approved a settlement of a nearly decade-old class action claim against the Social Security Administration.The suit against the SSA alleged that the agency had inappropriately pursued a policy that limited the ability of workers with certain “targeted” disabilities to obtain promotions and advance their careers.The settlement provides for payment of $9.98 million by SSA, including $6.6 million in payouts to eligible class members.

Class members in the suit include current and former SSA employees with blindness, deafness, missing extremities, complete or partial paralysis, seizure disorders and mental disabilities,who applied for a promotion and made the best qualified list but did not receive a promotion.In addition to substantial monetary payouts to class members, the settlement also provides for a number of programmatic and policy changes with an estimated value of $20 million.

These changes will include increased training for SSA supervisors and centralization of the reasonable accommodation process.First-line supervisors will have the authority to independently approve reasonable accommodation requests, but not to deny them.Only the agency’s central office will be able to handle accommodations that an immediate supervisor cannot approve.

SSA will also ensure that new technology is accessible to disabled employees.Additionally, the agreement provides for the institution of a new board to oversee the implementation of the changes to SSA policy and practice.The board members will consist of representatives from the agency and from the group of class members, and will be charged with ensuring that the goals of the settlement to improve work opportunities for disabled employees are promoted effectively.

This important settlement comes after many years of litigation.The administrative judge originally certified the class in 2008; however, the agency appealed the class certification, which the EEOC ultimately upheld.The final hearing for approval of the agreement will take place in March 2015.

The settlement not only represents a major victory for a large group of disabled federal workers at SSA, but also provides a template for other agencies to voluntarily improve their programs and practices to better serve their own disabled employees.

* This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman& Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com.

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