September 08, 2021

Paul Kinne Files Federal Class Action Lawsuit With Heath Straka and Victor Forberger To Overturn Wisconsin’s Ban on People With Disabilities Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Together with Heath Straka of Axley Brynelson, LLP, and Victor Forberger, Esq., partner Paul Kinne of Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs has filed a federal class action lawsuit in the Western District of Wisconsin on behalf of multiple Wisconsin workers with disabilities. The complaint aims to undo the discriminatory eligibility ban that prevents Wisconsin workers with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits from collecting unemployment benefits when they lose work through no fault of their own.

Approximately 157,000 SSDI recipients work in Wisconsin, meaning that one out of every 17 workers in this state is disabled. Starting in 2013 and then revised in 2015, the eligibility ban prevents these workers from collecting unemployment benefits when laid off from their jobs, in contrast to their nondisabled co-workers.

According to the attorneys on this case, the blanket eligibility ban is one of just two in the country. North Carolina is the only other state with a similar law, and most other states take a case-by-case approach.

Kinne and his partners on the case argue that the different treatment because of their disability status qualifies as discrimination, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Specifically, the class action and motion for a preliminary injunction asks the court to stop the current enforcement of the law and instead permit otherwise eligible workers with disabilities to receive benefits. The lawsuit also asks the court to provide plaintiffs with the opportunity to apply for benefits at any point over the past six years during which they would have been eligible but for their receipt of SSDI benefits.

Finally, some class members received benefits but were compelled by the state to repay those benefits, usually with a penalty, because they were receiving SSDI benefits. The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for the benefits and penalties.

SSDI recipients who may have questions about this case can call 608-841-2150.

Read the full complaint here.

Read the official press release here.

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