Case name: Hamilton v. Dayco Products, LLC, et al., 2:07-2782-PMD-RSC (D.S.C. 02/10/09).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina granted summary judgment for an automotive supply manufacturer in a former employee's ADA Title I and state law suit.
What it means: An injured or ill employee who applies for total disability benefits while arguing that she is qualified for her job must be able to explain this apparent inconsistency in order to secure coverage under the ADA or related laws.
Summary: A quality specialist for an automotive supply manufacturer injured her right shoulder, neck and back on the job. After exhausting her medical leave and refusing surgery that the doctor prescribed to heal her shoulder, the specialist applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The manufacturer terminated the specialist for inability to perform her job and failing to seek treatment. The specialist sued under the ADA and state law.
The District Court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer. The court rejected the specialist's claim that the manufacturer discharged her because it regarded her as disabled, even though she said she was still capable of performing her job. The court emphasized that the specialist did not reconcile the inconsistency between her statement to the SSA that she was completely unable to work and her argument that she was able to perform her essential duties. The court noted that a disability benefits application could sometimes be reconciled with an ADA claim, such as when an employee asserts that she is qualified for her job with accommodations, which the SSA does not take into account. However, the specialist did not attempt to explain the contradiction.
Moreover, she even acknowledged in one deposition that at the time she was discharged, she was incapable of working. Even though she later said that became fully incapacitated after her discharge, the court deemed the new, self-serving statement unreliable. The court concluded that the specialist was judicially estopped from claiming that she was a qualified individual with a disability at the time of the alleged discrimination.
April 16, 2009
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