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In Bright v. University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, No. 17-6101 (W.D. Okla. 2017) the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit took on that question when dealing with a case possibly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Annaliese Bright (“Bright”) worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the University of Oklahoma’s (“University”) French Department. In 2015, the department’s coordinator allegedly denied Bright’s request for disability accommodations. Bright complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she was fired.

In September 2016, Bright sued the University’s Board of Regents in state court for violating the ADA. The Board removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss. The district court granted the Board’s motion, concluding that Bright’s ADA claim was barred by sovereign immunity. Bright now appeals.

The district court reviews the case on the basis of sovereign immunity. Congress has not abrogated immunity for ADA employment claims. Bright instead recounts the circumstances leading up to her termination and states that she was coerced to work under unfair conditions. These arguments do not suggest that the district court erred in dismissing Bright’s ADA claim. The district court did not, however, specify whether the dismissal was with or without prejudice.

Controlling law states dismissal on sovereign immunity grounds must be without prejudice.  The District Court remands this claim to the district court with instructions to dismiss it without prejudice.


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