While the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear that receipt of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits will not always bar an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim, sufficient explanation must address seemingly inconsistent statements about an individual’s ability to perform essential job functions, with or without accommodation.
In the case of Myers v. Knight Protective Services (10th Cir. 2014), the plaintiff, Alphonso Myers, started employment around the time he applied for and received SSD benefits based on chronic pain, as well as standing, walking, and lifting restrictions.
The employer observed that armed security guard Myers appeared to be in pain at work and asked him about it. Upon confirming that he suffered recurring pain associated with a prior workplace injury and related surgeries, the employer removed him from work and required a fitness-for-duty exam. The exam did not take place and Myers filed a disability discrimination charge against the employer. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the employer ruling that Meyers was not a qualified individual with a disability. Essential functions of the armed security guard position included prolonged walking, standing, sitting, and the ability to react quickly to threatening situations and engage perpetrators. Representations in support Myers’ receipt of SSD benefits conflicted with his contention that he was also qualified to perform the essential functions of his new job. The court required a sufficient explanation for the apparent contradiction that was not found.