I am a professor at a large state university which has announced it will teach classes on campus this fall, and I am diabetic. I am very concerned about whether my university can provide an environment which will make it safe for me to teach on campus. I have requested politely to teach remotely, and have received pleasant non-answers so far.

If my administration declines to let me teach remotely, would I have a reasonable claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act? What should I do to preserve/pursue this option?

I have described my actual situation above, but it would probably be useful to other users to note how the answer might change if

  • instead of being diabetic, I were old
  • if I worked for a private university
  • if I were a graduate student or lecturer instead of a professor.

PS I can't seem to find a tag for ADA issues; please someone with reputation add or create it.

  • 1
    Hi @AnonymousAcademic, this question is interesting, however, it is asking for legal advice. Generalizing the question is usually pretty straight forward. You can see here the Law.SE policy regarding requests for legal advice: law.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/221/…
    – Andrew
    Jun 25, 2020 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


The relevant ADA rule is 29 CFR 1630_19, which says

It is unlawful for a covered entity not to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability, unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business.

I will assume based on parallel cases that you are and have been able to teach classes on campus even having diabetes. In that case, having diabetes does not prevent you from teaching in situ. You may be able to find someone who can creatively find a legal path for you using ADA, but that is a bit of a long shot. §1630.4 also says

In general—(1) It is unlawful for a covered entity to discriminate on the basis of disability against a qualified individual in regard to:

(long list of employment related circumstances, which would include the right to work from home): denying a person the right to teach remotely because of lack of disability is discrimination on the basis of disability. The law mandates certain forms of discrimination, i.e. the reasonable accommodation requirement, but unless your condition is ruled to necessitate discriminatory treatment, the university cannot discriminate in your favor, against others.

Being old is not, under the law, considered to be a disability. The law applies to all "employers", public or private, but they define "employer" as being an employer that hires at least 15 employees. State laws could be stricter.

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