Justice Department Settles Americans With Disabilties Act Case With Quinnipiac University
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, today announced that the government has reached a settlement with Quinnipiac University to resolve allegations that the university violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by placing a student who had been diagnosed with depression on a mandatory medical leave of absence without first considering options for the student’s continued enrollment. Quinnipiac University is a private, coeducational university located in Hamden, Connecticut.
This matter stems from a complaint from a Quinnipiac University (“Quinnipiac”) student who had been removed from the university after she sought mental health counseling at the university. The complainant also alleged that, after she had been removed, Quinnipiac denied her request to refund her tuition.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, including depression, by places of public accommodation.
The investigation determined that Quinnipiac discriminated against the complainant by placing her on mandatory medical leave because of her depression, and failed to consider modifying its mandatory medical leave policy to permit the complainant to complete her course work while living off campus by attending classes either online or in person.
Under the settlement agreement, Quinnipiac has agreed to pay to the complainant $17,000 to compensate her for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and $15,126.42 to pay off the loan she obtained to pay tuition to Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac also has agreed to implement a policy stating that it will not discriminate against applicants or students on the basis of disability, including persons with mental health disabilities, and to examine what modifications it can make to allow students with mental health disabilities to continue to participate in educational programs and attend their classes while seeking treatment for mental health conditions. The university also will provide training on Title III of the ADA, with a focus on mental health-related disability discrimination, to all staff.
“Quinnipiac removed this student from the university at a very vulnerable time in her life, and saddled her with a large student loan payment,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “Instead of removing students from school, educational institutions must be equipped to manage and educate students who recognize, disclose and are treating their mental health disabilities. We’re pleased that Quinnipiac has settled this matter, compensated the complainant and will implement a non-discrimination policy to help prevent this ADA violation from occurring in the future.”
“This settlement agreement reflects the critical role that educational institutions play in ensuring that students with mental health disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to fully participate in all that colleges and universities have to offer,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “Under the ADA, universities like Quinnipiac cannot apply blanket policies that result in unnecessary exclusion of students with disabilities if reasonable modifications would permit continued participation; in many cases, such modifications can be as simple as allowing a student to complete coursework on a modified schedule.”
This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Perkins of the District of Connecticut and Trial Attorney Nabina Sinha of the Disability Rights Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut has partnered with federal and state agencies and advocacy groups to form the Educational Opportunities Civil Rights Working Group to address civil rights violations by public and private educational institutions, afterschool programs, summer camps and day care centers. To contact the Working Group, please call 203-821-3836.
Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov or by calling the Department’s toll-free information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.
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