Elizabeth Warren: Trump’s Capture of Our Courts Is a Top Priority

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Reproductive Rights

When I was 21, I got my dream job as a public school teacher. But a year later, I became visibly pregnant, and I was told that the job I’d been promised for next year would go to someone else. Was it pregnancy discrimination? You bet. But I was 22, I didn’t have a union, and Congress hadn’t yet outlawed pregnancy discrimination.

There are women all across this country who’ve had similar experiences, but even today many federal courts interpret the laws against pregnancy discrimination so narrowly that some employers can get away with it. Whether it’s pregnancy discrimination, Roe v. Wade, or harassment, it isn’t enough for women to focus just on laws — we also need to focus on the courts. The courts have considerable power to interpret the laws to undermine women’s rights — and with Donald Trump’s right-wing judges on the bench, it could get a lot worse.

In just three years, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have installed more than 180 federal judges, including more than one in four circuit court judges. These judicial nominees are the least diverse in modern history, according to a report last year by the progressive judicial advocacy group Alliance for Justice — more than 85% are white and nearly 76% male — and many of them are unqualifiedpartisan, and extreme.

Some of these judges were confirmed with the help of Democrats, but the evidence is clear: Trump’s judiciary is already rolling back women’s rights. And, without reform — inside and outside of the courts — any Democratic president’s agenda will be at risk, too.

Take the Trump administration’s assault on Roe v. Wade. Republican lawmakers are hoping the Supreme Court will turn back the clock, outlaw abortion, and deny people reproductive health care — and Trump is playing along, promising to only nominate Supreme Court justices who want to overturn Roe. I’ll be blunt: It just might work. But even if the Supreme Court doesn’t overrule Roe immediately, it can continue chipping away at this precedent.

It’s more than abortion. Over the years, federal judges have narrowed the definition of what behavior constitutes illegal sexual harassment, according to a 2017 review of more than 1,000 job discrimination cases by two law professors. Workplace discrimination claims are dismissed before trial at a far higher rate than other civil lawsuits, perhaps because male judges think the harassment — from egregious verbal slurs to groping a worker’s breasts — just isn’t bad enough.

And far too many women can’t even take their cases to court in the first place. Courts have upheld forced arbitration, which can shield big corporations who legally bar workers from suing over harassment and discrimination. These clauses are frequently paired with nondisclosure agreements silencing employees from speaking out about discrimination, like the ones Mike Bloomberg and his company have used to prevent his employees from going public.* A report from the Economic Policy Institute found that over 60 million American workers — disproportionately women and people of color — can’t hold their boss accountable for illegal treatment as a result of forced arbitration. I’ve committed to ending forced arbitration and taking on sexual harassment — but we also need a fair and impartial judiciary that won’t roll back women’s rights.

Trump-appointed judges are also threatening to strip workers of their rights, attacking LGBTQ+ rights, and dismantling voting rights — compounding the pressures facing women, and especially women of color. To fight back and to preserve our hard-won victories for a new generation of women, we need to reform our courts and take back our government.

Read the full article at Teen Vogue.