March 21, 2017

Gorsuch vs the frozen trucker

Washington Post - Alphonse Maddin, the “frozen trucker,” appeared with Democratic senators this week to highlight the human toll of Gorsuch’s jurisprudence.

“Seven different judges heard my case — one of those judges found against me,” Maddin said. “That judge was Neil Gorsuch.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said cases such as Maddin’s show Gorsuch “prefers CEOs over truck drivers, executives over employers, and corporations over consumers.”

The facts in Maddin’s case are not in dispute. Hauling a load along Interstate 88 in Illinois for a Kansas-based trucking company, Maddin missed a refueling stop and pulled to the side of the road to decide his next step. In the subzero weather, the brakes on his trailer froze. He radioed for help, and the dispatcher told him to stay put and that a repair truck would come.

Maddin said he awoke hours later in the unheated truck cab, numb and with his speech slurred. Ignoring orders, he unhooked the truck from the trailer and drove off to look for help. He turned around when the repair truck came.

Later he was fired.

An administrative law judge and a review board of the Labor Department concluded Maddin was fired in violation of whistleblower provisions. They protect an employee who “refuses to operate a vehicle because .?.?. the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle’s hazardous safety or security condition.”

Gorsuch’s two colleagues on the appeals court panel agreed Maddin’s actions were consistent with “refusing to operate” his truck in a dangerous way.

But Gorsuch dissented. “The trucker in this case wasn’t fired for refusing to operate his vehicle,” Gorsuch wrote. Perhaps TransAm should not have fired him, Gorsuch said, but Maddin’s only legally protected option was to sit and wait.

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