Pregnancy as a Disability? Khan v. Midwestern University

The facts (combined from both decisions)

Ayesha Khan enrolled as a medical student at Midwestern University in fall 2010. 3.5 years into the program, in early 2013, Ms. Khan became pregnant. Like many women, Ms. Khan suffered from physical ailments during her pregnancy, including

  • Fatigue,
  • Nausea,
  • Gestational diabetes, and
  • Clinical depression and anxiety disorder (due to pregnancy and other personal circumstances).

Ms. Khan asked the University and her professors for accommodations—specifically, adjustments to her class schedule, rotations, and exams. She provided a letter from her doctor, who stated that Ms. Khan “was unable to fulfill the academic responsibilities due to her medical issues.” The University agreed too many of the requested accommodations and, in the middle of the semester, Ms. Khan took a two-week medical leave before returning to her coursework.

Yet, Ms. Khan alleges, not all of her accommodations were granted. In particular, she alleges that her Pharmacology professor responded to her request by criticizing her for being “too busy making babies” and implying that she could not pass his class because being pregnant was a full-time job that required her to stay home and play mommy. At the time of their conversation, Ms. Khan had failed seven out of nine exams and was, in fact, failing the course. Indeed, the professor denies that the two spoke about anything other than her academic performance and the target grades Ms. Khan needed to pass the course.

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