NJ Court Orders Disability Rehearing

May 2, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A New Jersey state appeals court has ordered a new hearing into a request by a former secretary for disability benefits because she suffered a severe allergic reaction to chemical irritants in her office.

Molly Baader stopped working in 1997, after nearly 11 years on the job, her attorney Samuel Halpern said, according to Gannett News Service. Baader was denied benefits by the board of trustees of the Public Employees Retirement System in 2003.

The appeals court reversed the ruling, saying that a doctor hired by the board of trustees testified that Baader was partially disabled and that “she can’t do her work in all locations,” according to court documents.

Baader, who now lives in Fort Myers, Florida, said she was exposed to irritants that gave her night sweats, a burning in her tongue and difficulty breathing, the Gannett news report said. Her symptoms became recurring, she said, and worsened, even when she was eventually moved to an uncarpeted work space. As a result, she claimed, she became totally and permanently disabled.

Her doctor said that as a result of her exposure to construction of her office building, Baader developed an illness known as “Reactive Dysfunction Syndrome,” which causes breathing problems and a host of other symptoms including sore throat, burning and coughing.

Halpern said that after moving to Florida, Baader has been able to keep her illness under control by using chemical-free cleaning agents and sprays.