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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Justice Department Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against University of Michigan

The Justice Department, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan, announced today that it has reached an agreement with the University of Michigan under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The agreement, filed as a consent decree along with a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, resolves allegations that the university violated the ADA by failing to accommodate a maintenance employee with degenerative back disease.  Specifically, the Justice Department alleged that the university failed to offer the employee, and another employee with a disability, reassignment to available vacant positions for which they were qualified; rather, the employees were required to compete for available positions along with all other applicants.  The complaint also alleges that the university engaged in a pattern or practice of disability discrimination by applying a policy that denies reassignment as a reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA. 

Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability in various aspects of employment.  These prohibitions include failing to provide reasonable accommodations, including reassignment, where such an accommodation does not pose an undue hardship.

“It is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the ADA to require disabled employees who need a reassignment as a reasonable accommodation to compete for that assignment,” said head of the Civil Rights Division, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta.  “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, we recognize its critical impact in the American workplace breaking down barriers for individuals with disabilities.  We commend the university for working cooperatively with the department to promptly resolve this matter and affect necessary changes.”

The consent decree, which must be approved by the court, requires the university to pay the employees a total of approximately $215,000 for monetary and compensatory damages, revise the university’s policies on reassignments and transfers, provide training to university staff on Title I of the ADA and file periodic reports with the department.

Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.

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Updated August 4, 2015