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New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Accessible Facilities; Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Twede, et al. v. University of Washington (W.D. Wash. Feb. 13, 2018)

Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs—who are “individuals with mobility impairment disabilities” and who each regularly travel to UW for class, medical appointments, and social engagements—alleged that eighty-six of the University of Washington (UW)’s parking lots and their “accessible routes” violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA), and the Washington Law Against Discrimination because they purportedly are not in compliance with 1991 and 2010 ADA standards. As a preliminary matter, the court found that Plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue claims for fifty-one of the parking lots because they either did not attempt to visit them or did not show that their knowledge of barriers deterred any interest they had in visiting them. Consistent with Title II of the ADA—which requires that public entities provide “meaningful access” to services, programs, or activities held in facilities constructed before January 26, 1992— the court found that parking lots built before January 26, 1992 were merely incidental to the services UW provided and they themselves did not constitute a “service, program, or activity” that required UW to provide meaningful access. However, because facilities built or modified after January 26, 1992 are subject to more specific requirements, the court allowed Plaintiff’s claims regarding parking lots built after January 26, 1992 to proceed to discovery. Last, the court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims with respect to “accessible routes, building entrances, payment kiosks, ramps, curb ramps, paths of travel, and signage barriers” because these allegations as stated in the Complaint were not sufficient to put UW on notice about what noncompliant features existed and where they were located.

2/16/2018
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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Ahmed v. Regents of the University of California, et al. (S.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2018)

Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a former Indian employee of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) who suffers from “a rare form of leprosy” and who proceeds pro se, claimed that Defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and Title VII when they purportedly failed to engage in a timely good-faith interactive process in response to his request for an accommodation; retaliated against him based on his need for an accommodation; conspired to deprive him of workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and wages; and discriminated against him based on race, ethnicity, and country of origin. Eleventh Amendment immunity and sovereign immunity precluded Plaintiff’s ADA claims against the Board of Regents, while claims against Individual Defendants were dismissed because the ADA does not allow for claims of personal liability. The court further found that Plaintiff’s RICO claim against the Board failed as a matter of law because as a government entity, the Board could not form the requisite element of “malicious intent.” The RICO claim against Individual Defendants was also dismissed because Plaintiff failed to allege injury to property and any particularity as to “who did what, when, where, and how.” Last, Plaintiff’s Title VII claims failed because he could not show that his termination was connected to unlawful discrimination by the Board, while claims against Individual Defendants were dismissed because individuals are not Plaintiff’s employer.

2/12/2018
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Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Addahoumi v. University of South Carolina Board of Trustees, et al. (D.S.C. Jan. 30, 2018)

Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss with prejudice. Plaintiff, a student at the University of South Carolina (USC) who was suspended and who subsequently brought claims against USC under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, objected to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that his pleadings be dismissed with prejudice because they violated general federal rules of pleading. Reviewing Plaintiff’s objections de novo, the court found that Defendants were not required to file a motion for a more definite statement and that dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice was proper, given the judge’s warning that failure to comply with federal pleading rules would result in dismissal with prejudice. 

2/5/2018
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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Xu v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System (W.D. Wis. Jan. 22, 2018)

Opinion and Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, an American citizen of Chinese national origin who worked as a librarian for the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), brought claims of disparate treatment, retaliation, and hostile work environment under Title VII for purported race and national origin discrimination, as well as a disability discrimination claim, following a conflict with library administrators concerning the categorization of a Japanese-language newspaper published in Taiwan. The court found that Plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case for discrimination and retaliation because she did not identify a significant, materially adverse employment action since Plaintiff continued to work for UWM at her same rate of pay at the time she brought the lawsuit.  —Plaintiff was also not able to prove pretext for a reprimand she received after submitting a late monthly report. The court also found that Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim failed because the heated exchange between Plaintiff and her supervisor about the resource’s categorization did not rise to the level of severe or pervasive discrimination. Last, the court found that Plaintiff failed to assert a plausible disability discrimination claim. 

1/25/2018
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Retaliation; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Williams v. Tarrant County College District (5th Cir. Jan. 18, 2018)

Per Curiam Opinion affirming-in-part and vacating-in-part the district court’s award of summary judgment to the Defendant. Plaintiff is a former writing-lab tutor for Tarrant County College District (TCCD) with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and hypothyroidism. She alleged that TCCD discriminated against her, failed to accommodate her disability, and retaliated against her in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Texas state law.  Plaintiff also brought claims of retaliation and failure to restore in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She argued on appeal that the lower court improperly excluded evidence of her disability and used the wrong standard to assess whether TCCD knew of her disability. The court found that under the directive of the ADA to construe “disability” broadly and under both the ADA's actual and regarded-as standard, Plaintiff’s pleadings sufficiently raised a genuine issue of material fact about whether her impairments were “substantially limiting” and whether TCCD knew of her impairments. The court also found that Plaintiff’s FMLA claims could not proceed because they were time-barred by a two-year statute of limitations, as opposed to a three-year limitations period that would have been in effect if Plaintiff had produce evidence of a willful FMLA violation.

1/25/2018
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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

J.C. v. Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and Rowan University (D.N.J. Jan. 17, 2018)

Unpublished Opinion granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a former student of Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, and symptoms of depression, brought claims against the University for disability discrimination under the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act after his request for extended leave to allow his treatment regimen to become effective was denied and he was dismissed from the program. The court found that Plaintiff sufficiently pleaded a prima facie case of disability discrimination. In its analysis, the court explained that the University had the ability to grant Plaintiff’s request for extended leave but declined to do so, that Plaintiff provided RU with sufficient documentation of his medical condition, and that Plaintiff still had two opportunities to pass the exam under the express terms of the RU policy. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim for a declaratory judgment, since it is not an independent cause of action. 

1/24/2018
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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Khan v. Midwestern University (7th Cir. Jan. 16, 2018)

Order affirming Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a former medical student who was expelled from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University, sued the University alleging that administrators failed to accommodate her pregnancy-related disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. The court found that Plaintiff was not qualified, with or without accommodations, to continue in the medical school program since the University’s policy called for the dismissal of students who accrued more than three failure equivalents, and by the end of her first two years, Plaintiff had acquired thirteen failure equivalents. 

1/23/2018
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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Toma v. University of Hawaii (D. Haw. Jan. 16, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff, who suffered from hypothyroidism and episodic depression as a former medical student of the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa, alleged that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) after he was placed on academic probation and was later dismissed for academic underperformance despite his requests for continued medical leave. The court found that a four-year statute of limitations barred all but one of Plaintiff’s claims. The court declined to recognize a hostile educational environment claim under the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA and dismissed Plaintiff’s claim of a systemic policy or practice of discrimination, since Plaintiff did not identify a systemic policy or practice. 

1/19/2018
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