The Justice Department announced [on March 5, 2013] that it has reached a settlement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School (UMDNJ) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The settlement resolves complaints that the UMDNJ School of Medicine and the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine unlawfully excluded applicants because they have hepatitis B. This is the first ADA settlement ever reached by the Justice Department on behalf of people with hepatitis B.
In 2011, the two applicants in this matter applied and were accepted to the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine, and one of them was also accepted to the UMDNJ School of Medicine. The schools later revoked the acceptances when the schools learned that the applicants have hepatitis B. The Justice Department determined that the schools had no lawful basis for excluding the applicants, especially because students at the schools are not even required to perform invasive surgical procedures, and that the exclusion of the applicants contradicts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance on this issue.
According to the CDC’s July 2012 “Updated Recommendations for Preventing Transmission and Medical Management of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) – Infected Health Care Workers and Students,” no transmission of hepatitis B has been reported in the United States from primary care providers, clinicians, medical or dental students, residents, nurses, or other health care providers to patients since 1991.
“Excluding people with disabilities from higher education based on unfounded fears or incorrect scientific information is unacceptable,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the UMDNJ for working cooperatively with the Justice Department to resolve these matters in a fair manner.”
“It is especially important that a public institution of higher learning – especially one with a mission to prepare future generations of medical professionals – strictly follow the laws Congress has enacted to protect from discrimination those people who have health issues,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman. “The remedies to which the school has agreed should ensure this does not happen again.”
Under the settlement agreement, the UMDNJ must adopt a disability rights policy that is based on the CDC’s hepatitis B recommendations, permit the applicants to enroll in the schools, provide ADA training to their employees and provide the applicants a total of $75,000 in compensation and tuition credits.
Both of the applicants in this matter come from the Asian American Pacific Islander community. The CDC reports that Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up less than 5 percent of the total population in the United States, but account for more than 50 percent of Americans living with chronic hepatitis B. Nearly 70 percent of AAPIs living in the United States were born, or have parents who were born, in countries where hepatitis B is common. Most AAPIs with hepatitis B contracted hepatitis B during childbirth. The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that this community is not subjected to discrimination because of disability.
Title II of the ADA prohibits state and local government entities, like the UMDNJ, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in programs, services, and activities. State and local governments must also make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless those modifications would result in a fundamental alteration.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at the website www.justice.gov/crt. More information about the ADA and today’s agreement with UMDNJ can be accessed at the ADA website at www.ada.gov or by calling the toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).