Case: DOJ Investigation of Brown University

No Docket | No Court

Filed Date: 2021

Case Ongoing

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Case Summary

At some point unknown to the Clearinghouse, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island commenced an investigation and compliance review into allegations that Brown University violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The investigation responded to a complaint regarding the university’s policies and procedures for readmission of undergraduate students seeking to return from a medical leave of absence. The investigation was j…

At some point unknown to the Clearinghouse, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island commenced an investigation and compliance review into allegations that Brown University violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The investigation responded to a complaint regarding the university’s policies and procedures for readmission of undergraduate students seeking to return from a medical leave of absence. The investigation was jointly handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Romero of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island and the Disability Rights Section of the Department’s Civil Rights Division. The university fully cooperated with the investigation, though it categorically denied violating Title III of the ADA.

Allegations against the university fell into three main categories: denial of readmission following medical leave for mental health reasons; enforcing a minimum amount of leave when taken for mental health reasons; and denying students with mental health disabilities equal opportunity to benefit from the university’s resources. First, the DOJ investigated whether the university denied applications for readmission submitted by undergraduate students who had taken a medical leave for mental health reasons from the fall 2012 to the spring 2017 semesters, even when students met all of the requirements for returning to school and the conclusion of their treatment. Second, the DOJ investigated allegations that the university forced undergraduate students taking leave for mental health reasons to remain on leave for at least two full semesters, denying requests for earlier returns even when students met all other requirements for returning to school. Finally, the university was alleged to have imposed eligibility criteria that tended to screen out students with mental health disabilities from fully and equally enjoying the university’s goods, services, facilities, privileges or advantages, or accommodations for the provision of goods, services, etc.

On August 10, 2021, the DOJ and U.S. Attorney’s Office announced a settlement agreement with Brown University following the department’s findings that the university violated Title III of the ADA.The agreement between the DOJ and the university included both monetary and non-monetary terms. The university agreed to pay an amount no greater than $684,000.00 to the United States for the purposes of compensating individuals whose requests for readmission were denied following a medical leave for mental health reasons from 2012 to 2017.

The non-monetary fell into three buckets: revising medical leave of absence and readmission policies; providing annual training of relevant faculty and staff; and issuing semiannual reports to the DOJ. Revisions to the university’s policies included providing an individualized assessment of each student when determining whether to grant returns, allowing students to request early returns, providing students whose requests are denied a detailed written explanation of the decision, and notifying students of their right to request a reasonable modification to the university’s medical leave policies when taking a medical leave of absence. With regards to training, the university agreed to provide ADA training within 90 days of signing the agreement and annually going forward to all faculty and staff responsible for receiving, evaluating or making decisions regarding undergraduate student requests for medical leaves of absence or readmission. During the term of the agreement, the university is required to provide semiannual reports that include any decision to deny a student’s request to return from a mental heath-related medical leave of absence, any complaints filed in federal or state court alleging the university’s policies subject individuals to disability-based discrimination, and details about staff training. The duration of the agreement is until 2024 (three years from the effective date).

Summary Authors

Hannah Juge (11/7/2021)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

No documents yet available via the Clearinghouse.

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Rhode Island

Case Type(s):

Disability Rights/Public Accommodations

Key Dates

Filing Date: 2021

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The investigation was jointly handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Romero of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island and the Disability Rights Section of the Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Brown University (Providence, Providence), Private Entity/Person

Defendant Type(s):

College/University

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Monetary Relief

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Amount Defendant Pays: <$684,000.00

Order Duration: 2021 - 2024

Content of Injunction:

Implement complaint/dispute resolution process

Provide antidiscrimination training

Reasonable Accommodation

Recordkeeping

Reporting

Training

Issues

General:

Education

Failure to train

Pattern or Practice

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable Modifications

Record-keeping

Records Disclosure

School/University policies

Discrimination-area:

Accommodation / Leave

Discrimination-basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Disability:

Mental impairment

Mental Disability:

Mental Illness, Unspecified

Type of Facility:

Non-government non-profit