Court of Appeals overturns trial judge and rejects custodian's disability claim
Sarah D'Angelo worked for the Southfield Public Schools for 24 years as a custodian. Her duties included moving furniture, snow removal, unloading trucks, cleaning floors and many other physically-demanding tasks. After a fall from a ladder, she was deemed disabled from custodial work. The school then assigned her to serve as a teacher's assistant in a classroom serving autistic pre-school students.
D'Angelo applied for a disability retirement, but the Retirement Board noted that she was now classified as a "paraprofessional" and therefore argued that she was not disabled from the tasks inherent in that classification. The Administrative Law Judge agreed and deemed her not qualified for a disability pension. On Appeal the Circuit Judge disagreed with the ALJ's anaylsis and held that D'Angelo was, in fact, disabled according to the medical testimony. The Court of Appeals rejected the trial judge's holding and returned the case to the trial judge to apply a more strict standard that would likely preclude the judge from overturning the ALJ's decision.