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PRESS RELEASE: Groups Submit Amicus Brief to Support Disability Rights in Anderson v. Roberts

Kelly Kmcbride May 13, 2024

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2024

Contact:

Julie Morse, Staff Attorney, LSCNY | jmorse@lscny.org
Patrick Fowler, Communications Strategist, NCLEJ | fowler@nclej.org
Susan Antos, Managing Attorney, Empire Justice Center | SAntos@empirejustice.org

 

Read as a PDF

 

Groups Submit Amicus Brief to Support Disability Rights in Andersen v. Roberts

 

NEW YORK – Fifteen organizations, led by Legal Services of Central New York, signed onto an amicus brief submitted to the Appellate Division of the State of New York in support of the plaintiffs in the disability and labor rights case Andersen v. Roberts.  Eisenburg & Baum LLP authored the amicus brief, which was accepted by the court on May 6, 2024.

 

Brought by the Empire Justice Center and later joined by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), the Andersen case concerns whether New Yorkers with disabilities have the same right to receive credit for work performed as a requirement of receiving public assistance that non-disabled people do. The plaintiffs contend that the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) refuses to credit required work hours by people with disabilities who later receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), in violation of a 2015 ruling.

 

“The State of New York continues to flout the rights of disabled New Yorkers by refusing to equally value their labor compared to nondisabled people,” said Julie Morse, Staff Attorney with Legal Services of Central New York.

 

In 2015, the New York Court of Appeals determined that public assistance recipients who participate in a Work Experience Program as a condition of receiving public assistance benefits are “employees” under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and that the required work must be credited against their public assistance debt. The Andersen case challenges the failure of OTDA to implement that policy statewide.

 

Although a settlement agreement was reached under which OTDA agreed to apply the 2015 decision to its recovery of public assistance debt from inheritances, insurance payments, personal injury awards, and lottery winnings, OTDA has not complied with the 2015 ruling for individuals with disabilities. When an individual receives public assistance and is later found by SSA to have been eligible –and thus retroactively awarded SSI benefits for the same period of time in which they received public assistance –OTDA does not give any monetary credit to the individual with disabilities for the work they performed.  OTDA instead requires all of the public assistance to be repaid from the retroactive SSI award, in violation of the 2015 ruling.

 

The amicus brief argues that the Court should affirm the lower court’s decision in favor of the Plaintiffs because:

  • OTDA’s reimbursement policy denies equal opportunity to people with disabilities;
  • OTDA fails to establish a rational basis for its policy, thus denying due process to people with disabilities;
  • OTDA’s policy furthers the economic disenfranchisement of disabled New Yorkers

 

Lead Andersen counsel Susan Antos, Managing Attorney, Empire Justice Center stated, “The State’s position is indefensible. More than a dozen organizations recognize that the State is violating the law and discriminating against people with disabilities through this policy, and we welcome their support in this important disability rights case.”

 

“We deeply appreciate the members of the disability rights and legal services communities standing with us and thoughtfully bringing these critical concerns before the Court,” said Saima Akhtar, Senior Attorney with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

 

OTDA’s appeal in Andersen is scheduled to be heard by New York’s Third Department Appellate Division during the term beginning on May 28, 2024. LSCNY, along with the fourteen other amici named in the brief, urges the court to affirm the New York Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Plaintiffs.

 

The following organizations appear as amici on the brief prepared by Eisenberg & Baum LLP:

  • Legal Services of Central New York (LSCNY)
  • The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN)
  • Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services (CBTLS)
  • Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY)
  • Cornell Law School’s Veterans Law Practicum
  • The Disability Rights Bar Association (DRBA)
  • The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
  • Disability Rights New York (DRNY)
  • The Legal Aid Society
  • The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York Inc.
  • Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. (LawNY)
  • The National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC)
  • The National Partnership for Women & Families
  • New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
  • The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)

 

Read the amicus brief here.

 

Legal Services of Central New York is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization serving the needs of low-income families and individuals in a 13-county region of central New York. LSCNY fights for economic, housing, health, and cultural and community justice. We provide free legal advice and representation to people in civil cases and are engaged in policy advocacy, community education, and support for community organizing. LSCNY’s work includes disability rights and employment law practices. Our attorneys represent people with and without disabilities to obtain and retain public benefits, including public assistance, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, childcare, and Social Security benefits, and also work to enforce employee rights, including wage and hour, equal pay, non-discrimination, and family and medical leave laws.

 

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