Justice Department Settles with Lesley University 

Gluten-free  -- Celiac Disease accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

A December 20, 2012 settlement agreement between the United States Justice Department and Lesley University may prove to be a shot in the arm for persons with celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases to obtain reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The settlement agreement resolves a complaint which alleged that Lesley University had failed to make necessary reasonable modifications of its policies, practices, and procedures to permit students with celiac disease to fully and equally enjoy the privileges, advantages, and accommodation of its food service and meal plan system. 

The settlement agreement, in part,  requires the university to work individually with students with celiac disease and other food related disabilities to fashion an individualized plan for the student; in some instances to exempt the student from mandatory meal plans; to require the university to provide nutritionally comparable food choices to such students; to require mandatory training for the university’s Food Service Provider, managers, and employees;  and to provide dedicated kitchen facilities for students with food related disabilities to prevent cross-contamination.

Lesley University is a private university with approximately 8,000 students in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is considered a public accommodation subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  At least one student had complained to the federal government after the school would not exempt that student from its mandatory meal plan even though the student could not eat the food.

The agreement between the justice department and the university provides a good road map for other colleges and universities to follow in making reasonable accommodations for celiacs.  Bruce Homstead, a member of the Governing Board of the Celiac Support Association (CSA), noted that “as Celiacs Helping Celiacs, I believe that CSA can be a vital resource to institutions of higher learning considering the impact of this settlement upon them.” CSA is willing and able to provide a resource team to educate and assist  institutions as they develop an action plan to comply with the standards established under this settlement agreement. The full text of the agreement can be found at www.ada.gov/lesley_university_sa.htm