Throughout his time as a judge, Neil Gorsuch has expanded rights for corporations while limiting rights for citizens. Now his Senate confirmation hearings reveal a judge who could do real damage to the few workplace protections available to working families.
One of Gorsuch’s more famous decisions came in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc v Sebelius, in which he prioritized a corporation’s religious beliefs over the needs of its employees to access birth control. In his opinion, Gorsuch said that requiring employers to offer insurance that covered birth control obligated them to participate in “the wrongdoing of others” – a disturbing glimpse into his feelings regarding women’s autonomy and their ability to exercise control over their bodies and their lives.
The judge’s opposition to reproductive rights isn’t exactly a surprise; Trump specifically said he was looking to appoint judges who would overturn Roe v Wade as quickly as possible. But it seems that the judge’s views on reproductive justice are indicative of complex and even sexist feelings regarding women – and their vital place in America’s workforce.
According to a former student, Gorsuch once led a class discussion during which he claimed that it is essential for companies to question a woman’s future maternity plans – and that women who get pregnant after getting a job are “using” the company. If his alleged remarks are true, they border on incendiary; according to the student, “Judge Gorsuch’s comments implied that women intentionally manipulate companies and plan to disadvantage their companies starting from the first interview.”
This kind of thinking is not only retrograde, it’s dangerous. Women do not bear sole parental responsibility, and creating and raising a family is not an act of malice against employers. (And, by the way, men are parents, too.) Not only do employers not have the right to “protect the company” by discriminating against women, they don’t have the right to ask about a current pregnancy, inquire about future family planning, or fire someone for getting pregnant. Gorsuch’s statements undermine the laws against discrimination. As a United States Supreme Court justice, his beliefs would have the power to set back the rights of women and families in the workplace by decades.
Since those statements have come to light, Gorsuch has tried to walk them back – but not far enough back to pose anything less than a serious problem. During his Senate confirmation hearings, he refused to say outright that no one should be fired for getting pregnant, and failed to support the EEOC on interpretations of the law that prevent discrimination.
Gorsuch’s animosity towards working people doesn’t stop there.
Perhaps his most famous position on corporations’ rights over people’s’ rights came when he made his opinion known in the “Trucker case.” In January of 2009, a trucker broke down on the side of the road in Illinois. He had no heat, and repair services for the company couldn’t confirm when they would reach him. He fell asleep in the truck and when he woke up just past 1am, his speech was slurred and his feet were numb – he was feeling the early indications of hypothermia. When he drove to safety and left the company’s trailer on the side of the road, the company fired him. When the court determined that the firing was unjust, Gorsuch dissented; he felt it was appropriate to fire the man for “abandoning company property.”
His decision is a deeply troubling window into his views on just how little regard he has for workers in the face of corporate interests.
Indeed, in yet another case in which the court came down on behalf of an employee, Gorsuch argued against holding a company responsible for failing to properly train a worker. That failure resulted in the worker’s death.
Gorsuch would be a disaster on the bench – especially for women and working families. His decisions consistently favor corporations’ interests over people’s livelihoods, and even their very lives. We can’t afford to have Gorsuch on the highest court in the land.