City of San Diego Sued for Disability Discrimination

November 12, 1997

A major disability discrimination lawsuit was filed in federal court today against the city of San Diego, alleging that the City illegally excludes persons with mental illness from the long-term disability (LTD) benefits plan that it offers its employees.

The suit was filed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, joined by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the San Diego office of the law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP.

The plaintiff, Jenny Badua, is a former city employee who worked for the City for several years before being diagnosed with manic depression. She was placed on LTD leave in 1994. Under the terms of the City’s LTD plan, because she had a “mental or nervous disorder related disability,” Ms. Badua was only eligible to receive 24 months of LTD benefits. Had she been diagnosed with a physical disability that prevented her from working, she would be eligible to receive LTD payments until age 65.

The impact of the City’s discriminatory exclusion of persons with mental illness is intensified because City employees are ineligible for sources of disability and retirement income that are available to private sector workers. Moreover, after the ADA went into effect in 1994, the City changed its LTD policy to entirely exclude benefits for all mental disabilities, thus making the policy even more discriminatory towards persons with mental illnesses.

One out of five Americans will at some point be diagnosed with a significant, medically-recognized depressive illness.