To the Editor: I sympathize with the Hwang family. However, their article in Thursday’s Manhattan Mercury attacking Judge Neil Gorsuch, a Supreme Court nominee, does not give a full and fair representation of the situation regarding their family member Grace Hwang.
Grace Hwang was a professor at Kansas State University in 2009 when she was diagnosed with cancer. She received a six-month paid leave of absence per KSU policy. Toward the end of her leave, she applied for KSU’s long-term disability benefits, which required that she resign. Ms. Hwang tried to negotiate a different arrangement but eventually accepted. She later sued KSU for violating the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of disability.
Ms. Hwang lost her case and appealed the ruling to a higher court. There the threejudge panel that included Judge Gorsuch affirmed the lower court ruling 3-0. Following is the full quote from Judge Gorsuch’s writing for the 3-0 majority: “Ms. Hwang’s is a terrible problem, one in no way of her own making, but it’s a problem other forms of social security aim to address. The Rehabilitation Act seeks to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work — not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work.”
By Ms. Hwang’s own admission, he notes, she was incapable of working. Continued Gorsuch: “It perhaps goes without saying that an employee who isn’t capable of working for so long isn’t an employee capable of performing a job’s essential functions — and that requiring an employer to keep a job
open for so long doesn’t qualify as a reasonable accommodation. After all, reasonable accommodations — typically things like adding ramps or allowing more flexible working hours — are all about enabling employees to work, not to not work.”
Judge Gorsuch was merely applying the law to the case. KSU properly followed its policies, and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act did not apply to this situation. Judge Gorsuch is not a heartless judge because he applied the law correctly. Neither was the lower court or the other two judges who did the same. John Matta 1213 Greystone Place