Ostrowski v. Lake County, Indiana, No. 21-1674 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Ostrowski worked for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department before a workplace injury left him permanently disabled. He now receives a monthly pension payment from the County. Lake County’s disability pension plan does not provide cost-of-living increases, while its pension plan for non-disabled retirees does. Ostrowski filed suit, arguing that the difference between the plans violated the Equal Protection Clause, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The district court held that Ostrowski’s suit was barred by a 2017 waiver that he signed while settling a “reasonable accommodation” claim against Lake County.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Ostrowski’s claims were not barred by the waiver, but failed on the merits; the court noted a general exclusion in the agreement for matters affecting Ostrowski’s pension. Retired and other former workers are not protected by Title I of the ADA and Ostrowski forfeited his arguments with respect to the Rehabilitation Act. Ostrowski’s Equal Protection claim qualified only for rational basis review. Lake County has a legitimate interest in providing pension plans that meet the differing needs of distinct groups; the cost-of-living adjustment is one of several relevant differences in the plans. The court reversed an award of fees and costs.