Employee cannot be Qualified for Position and claim Disability at the same time...
Issue: "At issue in this case is whether Robinson’s application for, and receipt of, Social Security disability benefits on the ground that she is fully disabled due to multiple sclerosis, renders her unable to make a prima facie showing that she was qualified for the position she held at the time of termination."
T1: District court held that appellant was estopped from showing qualification for her position at the time she was terminated because she applied and received SSD benefits based on her statement that she was fully disabled as of a date prior to her termination. T2: Affirmed because appellant failed to offer a sufficient explanation.
Appellant worked for Concentra Health Services, Inc. as a medical assistant from June 2003 until her termination in 2010. She applied for SSD benefits shortly after her termination on the ground she had MS. The initial application was denied, an appeal was filed and the appellant gave sworn testimony in 2012 as to her disability. As a result, an Administrative Law Judge reversed the Social Security Administration concluding "that [the appellant] was entitled to benefits because she had been fully disabled since June 14, 2010..." Concerta (Appellee) moved for summary judgment arguing that the Plaintiff-Appellant should be judicially estopped from claiming that she was both disabled and qualified for her position at the time she was terminated.
Law: Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individualʹs race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e‐2(a)(1). To overcome a motion for summary judgment under Title VII, a plaintiff must first satisfy an initial burden of ʺproving by the preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination.” Tex. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252‐53 (1981). Accordingly, the plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) she fell within a protected class under Title VII; (2) she was qualified for the position she held; (3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (4) the adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. See Reynolds v. Barrett, 685 F.3d 193, 202 (2d Cir. 2012).
SSD - Std of Law: [To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, a claimant must show she has a disability, defined, as relevant here, as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Further, the impairment must be “of such severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering h[er] age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” Id. § 423(d)(2)(A).]
Here the Appellant asserts one position, that she is completely disabled and, at the same time, is qualified for the position. Judicial estoppel “prevents a party from asserting a factual position in a legal proceeding that is contrary to a position previously taken by [that party] in a prior legal proceeding.” Bates v. Long Island R.R. Co., 997 F.2d 1028, 1037 (2d Cir. 1993). The Court will not harmonize these two positions and, because of the Appellant's statements, she is not qualified for her position. In Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 526 U.S. 795 (1999), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of judicial estoppel as to statements made in support of an application for Social Security disability benefits and subsequent claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Conclusion: [As the district court noted in its decision in this case, “courts have applied the Cleveland analysis to other employment statutes, including the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, Title VII, and the FMLA, because . . . claims under such statutes generally require a showing that the [p]laintiff was qualified for the position.” SA 23 (collecting cases). We agree with the district court that Cleveland provides the proper framework for evaluating whether judicial estoppel bars Robinson’s Title VII and Section 1981 claims.]
The Case is Sebrena Robinson v. Concentra Health Services,Inc., 14-941-cv (2d Cir., Mar. 24, 2015) (