I was listening to a podcast with lawyer who cites how pro corporate/anti worker Gorsuch is and one of the cases mentioned is the Frozen Trucker case............
Gorsuch’s dissenting opinion in one case. Trans Am Trucking v. Administrative Review Board, US Dept of Labor
The case demonstrates that Gorsuch thinks it’s fine if truck drivers freeze to death, as long as they don’t abandon their employer’s cargo. He is more concerned about property than he is about people
. This is Gorsuch’s dissent
in that case, where the Dept. of Labor ruled for the trucker:
In their view, an employee should be protected not just when he “refuses to operate a vehicle” but also when he “refuses to operate a vehicle in the particular manner the employer directs and instead operates it in a manner he thinks safe.” Yet those words just aren’t there; the law before us protects only employees who refuse to operate vehicles, period. Imagine a boss telling an employee he may either “operate” an office computer as directed or “refuse to operate” that computer. What serious employee would take that as license to use an office computer not for work but to compose the great American novel? Good luck.
Republicans are trying to present Gorsuch as a great legal mind. Yet in this dissent we have a person who does not understand the difference between trying to escape hypothermia in a truck where the heater isn’t working, and using a workplace computer for personal activity.
The right analogy would involve a computer throwing sparks and an employer telling the worker to stay put help was coming. That would be an appropriate analogy to a trucker who had good reason to believe he might freeze to death in a truck without a working heater, when the temperature was -14 outside.
This is an attempt to come up with stories to justify placing property over people, cargo over citizens. It’s the reasoning of someone who will take every opportunity to put the interests of owners over the interests of employees.
What was Gorsuch’s reasoning here? Well, he’s an “originalist”, and that’s where he went:
But that statute only forbids employers from firing employees who “refuse to operate a vehicle” out of safety concerns. And, of course, nothing like that happened here. The trucker in this case wasn’t fired for refusing to operate his vehicle. Indeed, his employer gave him the very option the statute says it must: once he voiced safety concerns, TransAm expressly — and by everyone’s admission — permitted him to sit and remain where he was and wait for help. The trucker was fired only after he declined the statutorily protected option (refuse to operate) and chose instead to operate his vehicle in a manner he thought wise but his employer did not. And there’s simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid.
Keep in mind, if the trucker had stayed put, he would have frozen to death since the heater wasn’t working. He’d lost feeling in his legs and torso, and his cousin told him (over the phone) that he was slurring his speech, all signs of hypothermia. So the option to “refuse to operate the vehicle” wasn’t safe. The truck driver had no way to get to a warm place aside from “operating” the truck.
By Gorsuch’s logic, if Trans Am had told the driver to turn off the heater and he had turned it on, he could also have been fired for choosing to “operate his vehicle in a manner he thought wise but his employer did not”.
Gorsuch likes finding ways to rule against the little guy. That predilection is why Trump nominated him, and that’s why Republicans are working so hard to get him confirmed.
He’s done this a number of times. Placing the religious beliefs of employers over the health-care needs of their workers (Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius). Placing the interests of school districts seeking to offer minimal (inexpensive) services over the rights of disabled students to an education (external - login to view)
Over the past 10 years with the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch has written at least 15 precedential labor and employment rulings. Twelve of those rulings involved federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims.
Gorsuch’s opinions found in favor of employers, mostly on the merits but at least once on jurisdictional grounds, in eight of the 12 cases.
He has written in favor of employees in two retaliation cases, one political bias case brought by a Republican-affiliated state employee and one pregnancy discrimination case. — Bloomberg (external - login to view)