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SSA settles $9.9 million discrimination lawsuit

While the federal government is responsible for the enforcement of all of the federal employment laws and regulations in the U.S., it is also a very large bureaucracy. There are tens of thousands of employees and managers working in diverse jobs, including medical researchers, weather forecasters, park rangers, FBI agents and federal judges.

And this can lead to sometimes ironic juxtapositions. A case has recently settled involving the Social Security Administration and disabled workers. The irony here is the SSA is responsible for processing and administering claims for disability insurance benefits, and keeping workers who suffer some form of disability working with is generally advantageous for the system.

Of course, federal employees are outside the SSA programs, with their own retirement system, so a worker from the SSA would not be eligible for Social Security disability insurance, even if they spent all day working on those types of claims.

The plaintiff in this class action was disabled because of being deaf, but was clearly capable of performing his job. He had worked for the agency for two decades, but in spite of making the "best-qualified list," he had never been promoted. The settlement includes a requirement for additional training of supervisors, to help combat the implicit bias and discrimination many managers have toward the disabled.

The $9.98 million settlement will help compensate many members of the class action who were discriminated against by being denied promotions. According to the attorneys involved with the case, it should also be a model for how agencies can resolve these types of discrimination situations.

The plaintiff is hopeful that it will help other federal workers who have disabilities to obtain advancement in their careers. The SSA is creating a centralized office to handle requests for accommodations from those with disabilities, which should avoid some of the less-informed denials of these requests.

Baltimoresun.com, "Judge OKs $10 million settlement for disabled Social Security workers," Lorraine Mirabella, November 7, 2014

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