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Gorsuch to Workers: If Your Boss Says to Endanger Your Health, Do It or Risk Being Fired


The boss’s orders come before a worker’s health, according to Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. That was the gist of Gorsuch’s dissent in a case in which a truck driver was stranded with broken equipment in subzero temperatures late at night, waiting for a replacement who was delayed for how long he did not know. The driver’s supervisor told him to keep waiting despite his heater also being broken, and wait he did, until:

At 1:18 am — nearly two hours after first calling Road Assist — Maddin was awakened by a cell-phone call from his cousin. The cousin became alarmed by how Maddin sounded; he seemed to be shivering, and his speech was slurred. Maddin straightened up in the cab and noticed that his skin was “crackling” from the cold, his torso was numb, and he couldn’t feel his feet, according to the administrative review board ruling. Maddin hung up with his cousin and called TransAm’s Road Assist unit again. He was told to “hang in there.”

According to the review board opinion, Maddin “tried to follow this suggestion but became fearful of losing his feet, dying, and never seeing his family again.” After another half-hour with no relief, he called his TransAm supervisor, reporting his physical symptoms which, by then, also included trouble breathing. Maddin explained that he wanted to unhook the trailer from the cab and drive to a gas station. The supervisor ordered him, however, according to the review board decision, “to either drag the trailer with its frozen brakes or stay where he was,” warning that the company could be fined if Maddin left the trailer unattended.
The driver finally unhooked his truck and left after 2 AM; he was fired a week later. According to Gorsuch—but, thankfully, not according to the other two judges on his appeals court panel—the driver should have stayed, so the firing was justified.

Gorsuch ridiculed his colleagues’ reasoning, and especially their appeal to the statute’s stated purpose of advancing health and safety.

“When the statute is plain, it simply isn’t our business to appeal to legislative intentions,” he wrote. “After all, what under the sun, at least at some level of generality, doesn’t relate to health and safety?”

Because difficulty breathing, not being able to feel your feet, and slurred speech are all signs of something that relates to health and safety only “at some level of generality.” You have to wonder what opinion Gorsuch would have if a worker was fired for leaving a burning building after being told to stay in it.

The Daily Kos 3/14


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