Elwell v. Bd. of Regents Univ. of Okla., No. 11-6061 (10th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
The issue before the Tenth Circuit in this case was whether the Americans with Disabilities Act created two separate-but-overlapping causes of action for employment discrimination. Plaintiff-Appellant Judy Elwell worked for Defendant-Appellee University of Oklahoma for years in an administrative role. She began to suffer from a degenerative spinal disc condition which did not prevent her from performing the essential functions of her job. Nevertheless, she sought certain accommodations from her employer. She alleged that the University refused to grant those accommodations and ultimately fired her, allegedly because of her disability. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, holding that Title II did not provide a cause of action for discrimination, and that Oklahoma did not waive its immunity from suit under the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act (OADA). The Tenth Circuit affirmed: "[i]n this case, those traditional tools of statutory construction - including a close examination of the text together with a careful review of the larger statutory structure . . . persuade us that Congress has spoken and spoken clearly to the question of employment discrimination claims and placed them exclusively in Title I. . . . Because Title II does not contain an independent cause of action for employment discrimination and because Ms. Elwell [could not] carry her burden of showing a waiver of sovereign immunity that might permit her to proceed with an OADA claim, the judgment of the district court [was] affirmed."