Judge Describes Claimants as Buxom and Gorilla-Like, Keeps Job

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on July 15, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Every once in awhile, some low level employee's distasteful description of his customers will blow up in the media. There's the racist slur on a pizza box, or the use of "fatty" as a name on a customer receipt.

We knew this sort of behavior was not exclusive to sales clerks, but we can't help but be a little hurt when we learned that a Social Security administrative law judge in Wisconsin had made similarly intemperate remarks -- at least for his position.

Meet Your Friendly Administrative Law Judge

You'd better put on your Sunday best and be nice and trim if you appear before Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss; otherwise, his notes of your appearance might be scathingly harsh. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin ALJ described one disability claimant who appeared in a hearing before him as having a "gorilla-like appearance." Another was "buxom," he noted.

"Buxom" and "Obese" Instead of "Nice Rack" and "Fat"

To Pleuss' credit (if that's the right word), there have been no reports that any of his notes included any such crass terms like "fatty" or worse. That's more a burger-joint MO. Being an ALJ, his words had to reflect a more genteel sentimentality: it's "buxom," vulgar peasants!

Still, his gorilla comment probably rolled over the line. Since the notes' revelation to the public, Pleuss has not heard any new cases. It's probably for the better too. According to government employees who work at the same government building as Pleuss, a security guard has been posted in order to ensure the peace. Meanwhile, the employee who originally leaked the material is being disciplined.

Shorthand Descriptions

The Association of Administrative Law Judges told the Sentinel that Pleuss could not respond to interview requests and that his comments, though offensive out of context, did not indicate that Pleuss discriminated against claimants or had prejudicial tendencies.

According to Marilyn Zahm, president of the AALJ, Pleuss "regrets ever writing these notes."

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