IF YOU WORK IN A DANGEROUS JOB, YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT BRETT KAVANAUGH
When a vibrant 40-year-old animal trainer was killed by a whale at SeaWorld in 2010, the government’s safety agency, an administrative law judge, and a panel of appellate judges all agreed that SeaWorld broke the law by not taking basic precautions to provide a safe workplace. All, that is, except one judge on the appellate panel who dissented: Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice.
When questioned about his dissent today by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Kavanugh claimed, “The issue Senator, was precedent. I follow, as a judge, precedent.”
Kavanaugh’s dissent was stunning because it echoed a sentiment that has long been put to rest by Congress, but continues to be put forward by dangerous businesses that want to shirk any responsibility for worker safety: the idea that workers assume safety risks when they take jobs.
“When should we as a society paternalistically decide [that employees should be protected from] the risk of significant physical injury?” Kavanagh wrote in his dissent. Not only was this an extreme position—one few have espoused on the bench—but it completely contravenes Congress’s intent when it passed the workplace safety law more than four decades ago.
A bipartisan Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, and President Richard Nixon signed the legislation into law. It provided workers with the fundamental right to go to work and come home every day; workers should not have to sacrifice their lives for a paycheck. The law is clear that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace.