University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DOJ Investigation of Brown University DR-RI-0005
Docket / Court No Docket ( No Court )
State/Territory Rhode Island
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Education
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
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 ... read more >
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).

Hannah Juge - 11/07/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Provide antidiscrimination training
Reasonable Accommodation
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Training
Defendant-type
College/University
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Education
Failure to train
Pattern or Practice
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
School/University policies
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Type of Facility
Non-government non-profit
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Brown University
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.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2021 - 2024
Filed 2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection

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