Judge Gorsuch and the ‘Frozen Trucker’ case

I write a lot about very bad court decisions. Here’s one from U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch that rivals the very worst.

Judge Gorsuch wrote a dissent in Transam Trucking, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board, U.S. Department of Labor in which he said a trucker should be fired because he left a big truck rig with frozen brakes that was stranded by the side of the road late at night in frigid weather, three hours after his employer failed to arrive to fix the truck. The cabin was unheated and the trucker was showing signs of hypothermia. He unhooked the trailer and drove the cab to a gas station where he warmed up, and then he returned. He was fired.

“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” wrote Gorsuch.”There’s simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid.”

Do we really need a law saying you can save your life if its 14 degrees below zero,  your torso is numb and your speech slurred, and your employer has failed to rescue you after several hours time?

[Read more…]

How Can the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Be So Clueless about Age Discrimination?

Why is it left to the Attorney General of Illinois to address the national problem of blatant and destructive age discrimination in hiring?

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan this week warned six national career and job search companies that some of their search functions could violate state and federal age discrimination laws. The job sites are Chicago-based CareerBuilder, Indeed, Beyond, Ladders, Monster Worldwide and Vault.

Kudos to Ms. Madigan but this issue demands a national response, especially since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta  ruled that job applicants are not entitled to the protection of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Yet, for years, the EEOC and members of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging have sat on their hands while older workers have been mired in chronic unemployment due to  blatant age discrimination in hiring.  Why? The picture became clearer recently when Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania , a ranking member of the Special Committee on Aging, issued a press release on the committee’s web site that was stunningly uninformed about the ADEA.

Casey announced that he and several other committee members recently “introduced” the Protecting Older Workers against Discrimination Act (POWADA), which would remove  the higher burden workers alleging age discrimination currently face in the court system relative to workers alleging discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. In actuality, the POWADA  is a proposed law that literally has been languishing in various Congressional committees since  2009, which was  the year that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling establishing the higher burden for age discrimination plaintiffs.

Worse, Sen. Casey says the POWADA would “level the playing field” for older workers. This statement is so profoundly wrong that one must wonder whether the special committee employs any professional staff who know anything at all about the federal law governing age discrimination.

Contrary to what Sen. Casey states, the POWADA would not “level the playing field for older workers.” Not by a long shot.

[Read more…]

Economists Say Age Discrimination in Hiring Forces Cuts in Social Security

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco issued an “Economic Letter” this week noting that “current policies” in place to combat age discrimination in hiring may not work, which is increasing the burden on U.S. Social Security and forcing policy-makers to find ways to limit benefits.

The authors, economists David Neumark and Ian Burn, from the University of California and Patrick Button of Tulane University, also say  research shows that age discrimination most adversely affects women who “end up quite poor” at the end of their lives.

The authors say  older workers are being encouraged to work longer but can’t find jobs due to age discrimination.

“Population aging and the consequent increased financial burden on the U.S. Social Security system is driving new proposals for program reform. One major reform goal is to create stronger incentives for older individuals to stay in the workforce longer.  However, hiring discrimination against older workers creates demand-side barriers that limit the effectiveness of these supply side reforms,”  state the authors.

The authors say age discrimination in hiring is creating pressure on policy makers to reduce the age for Social Security benefits and to cut benefits. [Read more…]

Missouri bill would make it harder to sue for discrimination

If you don’t like getting sued for discrimination, just make it harder to sue.

That seems to be the theory underlying a bill pending in Missouri House of Representatives that was recently endorsed by the University of Missouri system.

The proposed bill would make it harder to sue by raising the level of proof in lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It also would bar the award of punitive damages against “public entities.”

The University of Missouri Backs the Controversial Measure

The Missouri legislature’s Special Committee on Litigation Reform, which held a hearing on the bill last week, appears to be less than interested in opposing views. Committee Chairperson Bill Lant cut off the microphone of Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel, who said the measure would expand discrimination and represents a form of “Jim Crow.”   Lant, a Republican, also refused to allow a committee member to ask questions of Chapel.

Minutes before Chapel was silenced,  the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Marty Oetting, lobbyist for the University of Missouri, told the committee that UM supports the bill, especially the part barring anyone winning a lawsuit from receiving punitive damages from public entities. The university system is currently facing two discrimination lawsuits,

The university claims workers receive sufficient protection under federal law and do not need the enhanced protections of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The driving force behind the bill is Missouri State Sen. Gary Romaine, the owner of a “rent-to-own” furniture business that is currently a defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit.  Romaine couched the bill as a way of “reforming Missouri’s legal climate and improving our ability to grow existing businesses and attract new employers.”

The proposed bill would essentially adopt the current standard of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 for all victims of race and sex discrimination. Workers would have to show that discrimination occurred “because of” discrimination rather than meeting the lesser standard of showing that discrimination was a motivating factor.