Monday, May 18, 2020

Laundry Worker and Literacy

In Sutherland v. Saul, the Ninth Circuit affirmed on the basis that the vocational testimony about laundry worker did not have an apparent conflict with the DOT in an unpublished opinion.  The court did not address the finding of the ALJ that Sutherland could perform past work or other occupations beside laundry worker.  Nor does the court tell us the boundaries of the medical-vocational profile.  The vocational testimony asserted that some laundry worker jobs required literacy, but not all.  The court reasoned:
The Dictionary thus describes "maximum requirements" of jobs as "generally performed," and not what every job within that occupational field requires. [Gutierrez v. Colvin, 844 F.3d 804, 807 (9th Cir. 2016)] (quoting SSR 00-4P, 2000 WL 1898704, at *2-3). Here, the vocational expert testified that some, but not all, jobs that fall within the relevant occupational category of "laundry worker" require literacy. That is not an "obvious or apparent" conflict with the Dictionary's requirements for the relevant laundry worker occupation, which says almost nothing about literacy. Id. at 808; see also DICOT 361.685-018, 1991 WL 672987
It bears repeating, the DOT does not describe the maximum requirements of occupations as they are generally found.  The DOT describes the typical requirements of occupations as they are generally found.  DICOT Appendix D.  Gutierrez implicitly defers to a ruling that is not entitled to deference.

But that is not the question here.  The question is whether laundry workers require literacy.  The Occupational Outlook Handbook (available on for free states that laundry and dry-cleaning workers (SOC 51-6011) represents 218,600 jobs.  Laundry and dry-cleaning workers contains 23 DOT codes and 168 alternate occupational titles.  Laundry and dry-cleaning workers require a high school or equivalent education in 20.6% of jobs.  Laundry and dry-cleaning workers do not have a minimum educational requirement in 79.4% of jobs.  Laundry and dry-cleaning workers do not require literacy in 18.5% of jobs.  Occupational Requirements Survey (2018).

The number of jobs that do not require literacy is approximately 40,400 jobs.  The data supports the testimony of the vocational witness as to the existence of a significant number of jobs that do not require literacy.  Whether other limitations (whether eroding exertion or other cognitive requirements of work) would erode that number is not discernible based on the face of the court's unpublished opinion.



Lawrence Rohlfing, Laundry Worker and Literacy, California Social Security Attorney (May 18, 2020)

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