We thought we’d heard almost all the Neil Gorsuch is a dick who always rules in favor of employers stories already, but darned if another one didn’t come along! Sure, we knew he thought a trucker should have frozen to death in order to comply with the law, and that he doesn’t think women have a right to slut pills, because employers have a right to not allow sluttery, and that he was quite sure Congress only required schools to educate disabled kids a little bit more than “not at all.” But during debate on the Gorsuch nomination in the Senate today, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin mentioned another fine example of Gorsuch’s strictly limited reading of the law, a 2014 ruling against Grace Hwang, an assistant professor recovering from leukemia who was fired by Kansas State University after the school refused to extend her sick leave. Hwang died last summer at the age of 60.
In an op-ed, Hwang’s family explains how their mother first fought breast cancer, then was later diagnosed with leukemia. After receiving a stem cell transplant, Grace Hwang was near the end of a six-month leave of absence and preparing to return to work, but her doctors advised her not to, since her immune system was compromised and the university was undergoing a flu outbreak. Hwang requested an extension of her sick leave, but KSU refused the request, and wouldn’t let her work from home. When she stayed at home to follow her doctors’ recommendations, she was fired.
Hwang sued Kansas State, arguing that federal law required reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities — such as a short extension of sick leave for someone whose health would be endangered by a viral outbreak at the workplace. But Gorsuch sided with the university, because aren’t employers supposed to be the ones who decide what’s “reasonable”?
In writing his decision, Gorsuch said the purpose of federal law is “not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work.” He said that Grace’s six months of leave were “more than sufficient,” and that attendance was a basic expectation of employees. But Grace wasn’t asking for a vacation. She was asking for what the law provides: a reasonable accommodation so she could work from home instead of going to campus and potentially dying.
When she heard about the court’s ruling, she couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t either.
Stupid takers and their insistence that going to work not actually kill them!
The ACLU calls attention to Gorsuch’s outright snottiness toward Hwang’s situation: He wrote that “showing up” to work is a condition of employment, and that Hwang hadn’t shown up, so of course it was only just and right that she lose her job — even though she’d shown up for 15 years prior to her illness. The ACLU says Gorsuch’s ruling “contravened Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, every other circuit decision on the issue, and reasoning from the Supreme Court” in a landmark case; far from asking for a “safety net,” Hwang was simply asking for a brief extension of her sick leave. But it was apparently too much of a burden for Kansas State, so the hell with the lazy professor who thinks a bit of leukemia should excuse her from work.
So hooray, if this guy is confirmed, we can look forward to all sorts of new frontiers in cruelty to people who have the poor taste to go and get sick. That’ll teach ’em a lesson about not being a burden on society.
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