The Departments of Justice, Education and Health and Human Services issued a joint letter to the nation’s medical schools, dental schools, nursing schools, and other health-related schools regarding hepatitis B discrimination. In the letter, the departments express concern that some health-related schools may be making enrollment decisions based on an incorrect understanding of the hepatitis B virus, resulting in discrimination.
The letter describes the Department’s March 2013 hepatitis B settlement agreement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) resolving allegations that UMDNJ violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by retracting admittance offers to previously-accepted applicants with hepatitis B, and updates health-related schools on the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the participation of students with hepatitis B in health-related schools. The letter also emphasizes the importance of CDC’s recommendations, especially as they relate to the schools’ obligation to comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability (including Titles II and III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) and other federal civil rights laws. The ADA and Section 504, among other things, prohibit the use of criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of discriminating against people with disabilities and also require schools and other covered entities to make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices or procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the modification would fundamentally alter the nature of the program or the services provided.