Description: The Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
Fair Economy Impact: On April 7, 2017, the Senate confirmed Trump’s choice, Neil Gorsuch, to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. This confirmation will significantly affect this nation’s workers. Over the next few terms, the Supreme Court is likely to decide several cases that will dramatically impact workers’ rights, and will issue decisions that could undermine the foundational legal principles workers rely on to have a voice in their workplaces. Significant cases involving collective bargaining, forced arbitration, and employment discrimination are all either already on the docket for the next term or likely to be on the docket in the coming years. And Gorsuch has a record of ruling in favor of employers in workers’ rights cases.37
To highlight one example: Gorsuch was questioned extensively at his confirmation hearing about his dissent in the TransAm Trucking, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board case.38 The majority of a three-judge Tenth Circuit panel upheld an Administrative Review Board ruling in favor of a truck driver who refused to follow his supervisor’s orders to either drag his trailer—which had frozen brakes—or remain with the stranded trailer (in subzero temperatures with no heat) until a repair person arrived. Because he was experiencing symptoms of hypothermia, the driver unhitched the trailer from the truck and drove to a gas station. He was fired for violating company policy by abandoning his trailer while under dispatch. However, under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, a truck driver may not be fired for refusing to operate a vehicle when he reasonably fears for his or others’ safety. An administrative law judge, the Administrative Review Board, and the Tenth Circuit majority held that the driver had been unlawfully fired. Only Gorsuch dissented.
Gorsuch’s dissent in this case suggests a hostility to fundamental worker protections. In his dissent, he describes health and safety goals as “ephemeral and generic” and views a worker having to wait in subzero temperatures with no access to heat while experiencing symptoms of hypothermia as merely “unpleasant.” This language indicates that Judge Gorsuch does not understand workers’ lives or the laws that protect them. His dissent should raise serious concerns for working men and women about his treatment of protections in other labor and employment laws.
- President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch on January 31, 2017
- Senate Confirmed on April 7, 2017