President Trump ran his campaign on the promise to help blue collar workers, but his Supreme Court nomination Judge Neil Gorsuch sided with the trucking company and not the trucker in the notorious “Freezing Driver” case.
Trucker Stranded For Hours With Frozen Brake Lines And Malfunctioning APU
In January of 2009, TransAm driver Alphonse Maddin found himself stuck in subzero temperatures with frozen brake lines and almost no fuel. While waiting for a repairman for over two hours, his truck’s APU stopped working and Maddin began to feel numb. When Maddin expressed concern for his safety to his supervisor, he was told to either stay with the truck and wait or to drag the trailer with him. Maddin opted to detach the trailer and seek help.
Trucker Takes TransAm To Court Following Termination
Less than a week after the incident, Maddin was fired for abandoning his load.
Maddin filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, arguing that TransAm had violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act in terminating him for the incident. OSHA dismissed the complaint, but the case eventually made it to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Driver Wins, But Trump’s Pick Sides With Company Over Trucker
The Tenth Circuit Court ruled 2-1 in favor of Maddin, arguing that his behavior was protected by the STAA because it is illegal to fire 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.’
The dissenter in the case was Trump’s Supreme Court pick Judge Gorsuch. His dissenting opinion maintains that Maddin violated the law — and disobeyed his employer’s wishes — in unhitching his trailer and driving away.
“A trucker was stranded on the side of the road, late at night, in cold weather, and his trailer brakes were stuck. He called his company for help and someone there gave him two options. He could drag the trailer carrying the company’s goods to its destination (an illegal and maybe sarcastically offered option). Or he could sit and wait for help to arrive (a legal if unpleasant option). The trucker chose None of the Above, deciding instead to unhook the trailer and drive his truck to a gas station. In response, his employer, TransAm, fired him for disobeying orders and abandoning its trailer and goods.
It might be fair to ask whether TransAm’s decision was a wise or kind one. But it’s not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one.
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.”
Cases like this have many worried that Gorsuch will slant the Supreme Court away from the protection of worker’s rights in favor of protecting companies.
According to Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, “Gorsuch would likely continue the Supreme Court’s trend of ruling in favor of corporations and against American workers and consumers.”
— MarketWatch (@MarketWatch) February 2, 2017