Stephen Oross, an associate professor of psychology at Kutztown University who was denied a remote teaching accommodation following his recent heart transplant, is suing Kutztown and was just awarded a temporary restraining order reinstating him to “full active duty” with remote accommodations. The order also prevents the university from cutting off his medical benefits for the time being.
Oross, “who alleges he is a heart transplant recipient who needs daily expensive anti-rejection medication to stay alive, would suffer irreparable harm if his medical benefits were terminated on Dec. 29, including having to personally pay for such medication,” says the restraining order from Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “The irreparable injury the plaintiff faces outweighs any injury that the defendants will sustain as the result of the temporary restraining order.”
Oross, who remains immunosuppressed and says he was forced to take leave this semester to avoid teaching in person during the pandemic, said, “In my mind this is nice, as it should allow me back to teaching for the upcoming winter and spring semesters, along with preserving my insurance and other benefits.”
This, however, “is only Step No. 1,” Oross said. “Step No. 2 is the settlement or court. More importantly, Step No. 3 is to make sure the legal process serves as a means of changing the future behavior of KU administration and, by doing that, protect the right to appropriate accommodations for the other faculty, staff and students at KU who have been harmed by denials of accommodations.” Perhaps, he added, “it will also be of help for individuals from other institutions of higher education who have experienced similar harm.”
Matt Santos, Kutztown spokesperson, said the institution’s position “has been, and continues to be, that we are following and have complied with the requirements of the [Americans With Disabilities Act]. We will certainly comply with whatever court decisions are made now and long term.”