Disabled Employees’ Class Action Moves Forward

A group of disabled employees of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has secured a victory in a class action before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On Aug. 25, the EEOC Office of Federal Operations affirmed the Oct.8, 2008 decision of the administrative judge to certify the case as a class action.

The action alleges that the SSA discriminates against employees with targeted disabilities by limiting promotions and other career advancement opportunities. The certified class includes all current and former employees with targeted disabilities at the SSA who, on or after Aug. 22, 2003, have applied for promotions, appeared on a best-qualified list and been denied promotion opportunities. The class is estimated to include approximately 2,000 members, and is represented by a consortium of law firms and disability rights advocates.

The EEOC defines “targeted disabilities” to include deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, convulsive disorders, mental retardation, mental illness and genetic and physical conditions affecting limbs and/or spine.

For years, the EEOC has reported an alarming decline in the number of people with targeted disabilities in the federal workforce, despite the government’s statutory obligation to be a model employer. The EEOC also reports that employees with targeted disabilities tend to receive fewer promotions than their peers, stagnate in grade longer than their peers, and are compensated at lower rates than their peers.

“I am pleased with this ruling and hope it causes the SSA to confront this issue head-on,” Ronald Jantz, a deaf SSA employee and a plaintiff in the case, stated in a press release. “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.”

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