Jill Abramson, writing in New York, says it’s time to impeach Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill told the truth. The number of corroborating witnesses has grown. Clarence Thomas was a serial harasser and, pertinent to judicial impeachment, a liar. Joe Biden gets some of the blame.
This is meticulously reported stuff. And here’s the kicker:
His record on the Court has been devastating for women’s rights. Thomas typically votes against reproductive choice: In 2007, he was in the 5-4 majority in Gonzales v. Carhart that upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He voted to weaken equal-pay protections in the Court’s congressionally overruled decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire. He joined the majority decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, holding that an employer’s religious objections can override the rights of its women employees.
And, in one of the most underreported decisions of the last several years, Thomas cast the key fifth vote to hobble the federal prohibition on harassment in the workplace. The 5-4 decision in 2013’s Vance v. Ball State University tightened the definition of who counts as a supervisor in harassment cases. The majority decision in the case said a person’s boss counts as a “supervisor” only if he or she has the authority to make a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.” That let a lot of people off the hook. In many modern workplaces, the only “supervisors” with those powers are far away in HR offices, not the hands-on boss who may be making a worker’s life a living hell. The case was a significant one, all the more so in this moment.
Thomas, who almost never speaks from the bench, wrote his own concurrence, also relatively rare. It was all of three sentences long, saying he joined in the opinion “because it provides the narrowest and most workable rule for when an employer may be held vicariously liable for an employee’s harassment.”
The concurrence is so perfunctory that it seemed like there was only one reason for it: He clearly wished to stick it in the eye of the Anita Hills of the world.