Friday, February 20, 2015

Proof of Reasonable Accommodations Defeats ADA Lawsuit

In Novak v. Southern Illinois University, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of Southern Illinois University (“SIU”) in a federal lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of  the Rehabilitation Act.  Specifically, the Plaintiff, Patrick Novak, alleged that he had been terminated from the University’s doctoral program in Curriculum and Instruction on the basis of his post-traumatic stress disorder in violation of  federal laws.

To prevail, the Plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination by presenting evidence that (1) he is disabled, (2) he is qualified to participate in the program, (3) he suffered an adverse action, and (4) nondisabled students were treated more favorably.  The parties disputed only two of the three elements of the cause of action: whether Mr. Novak was qualified for the doctoral program and whether his exclusion from the program was on the basis of his disability.  The parties did not dispute that Novak suffered from a disability.

The Seventh Circuit found in favor of  SIU based on the undisputed facts and the well documented evidence. The record showed that defendant had provided reasonable accommodations by giving plaintiff additional time to complete required tests, as well as giving plaintiff multiple opportunities to retake exams, and that his termination did not take place until plaintiff had failed a required test four times with reasonable accommodations. In fact, the record showed that the defendants afforded Novak many accommodations to ensure that his disability did not interfere with his having a fair opportunity to meet the University’s standards for this particular program.  On this basis, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of SIU.