September 19, 2023
Source: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Elis for Rachael, Inc., two Yale students, and Yale University have reached a settlement agreement to resolve a lawsuit filed [in] November 2022 regarding policies and practices impacting students with mental health disabilities.
The Bazelon Center, along with co-counsel Disability Rights Connecticut and Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, P.C., represented the Plaintiffs, two Yale students and Elis for Rachael, Inc., a non-profit advocacy group, who brought this case to address Yale’s decades of discrimination against students with mental health disabilities in violation of federal law. The complaint, filed last November, alleged that Yale treated unequally and failed to accommodate students with mental health disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal laws.
The settlement agreement, approved by the court on August 28, 2023, requires Yale to implement significant policy changes to increase equity for students with mental health disabilities, including streamlining and clarifying procedures for medical leave, allowing students on medical leave to retain access to health insurance for up to one year, reducing reinstatement requirements, and, for the first time, offering part-time study as a reasonable accommodation.
Yale has also agreed to create a brand-new “Time Away Resource” – a year-round, non-evaluative staff member who will help students understand relevant policies, access resources, and navigate the medical leave process.
On September 6, The New York Times featured the Yale University settlement agreement, including the years of student advocacy leading to it, the Bazelon Center’s involvement, highlights from the agreement, and its place in the national conversation around mental health and higher education.
Read or Listen to the Article: At Yale, a Surge of Activism Forced Changes in Mental Health Policies
[Note: This New York Times article may require a paid subscription to read and access it.]
Bazelon’s Policy & Legal Advocacy Attorney Monica Porter Gilbert was quoted in the article, speaking to how the Yale University settlement agreement builds on work she did at Stanford a handful of years ago, and includes more relief than the Stanford agreement. Most notably, Yale will now offer part-time study as a reasonable accommodation.
This advocacy has been truly community-led, building on years of work by the organizational plaintiff Elis for Rachael, Inc. and driven by experiences of student plaintiffs and many more Yale students who shared their stories and contributed to calls for change. As Monica said in the New York Times,
“It’s the students and the plaintiffs in this case making their voices heard and bringing Yale to the table to have difficult conversations.” The pandemic years, she added, have brought new urgency to their arguments. “As a nation, we talk about mental health differently now.”
This case, while limited to Yale, has received national attention, built upon our previous higher education work, and advanced equal access to education and housing for students with mental health disabilities. This continues to be a priority for the Bazelon Center and our efforts to ensure colleges and universities commit to the success of all students, including students with mental health disabilities, are far from over.
News source: bazelon.org/#maincon