Amy Coney Barrett is facing additional criticism over a controversial ruling in a workplace discrimination case.
The conservative Supreme Court nominee was pressed on the issue during Wednesday's confirmation hearing, when Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) expressed concern over Barrett's position on racial bias in the criminal justice system. Barrett told the former presidential candidate she was convinced such bias existed.
"It would be hard to imagine a criminal justice system as big as ours without having an implicit bias in it," Barrett responded. "I think that in our large criminal justice system, it would be inconceivable that there wasn't some implicit bias."
Booker then brought up the 2019 Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation case, in which a Black transportation employee alleged he had experienced racial discrimination during his time with the department and was fired in retaliation for issuing complaints. The plaintiff Terry Smith specifically accused his white supervisor of creating a hostile work environment by using the n-word. According to the Associated Press, Barrett was among the judges who upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit, ruling Smith failed to prove that the use of the racial slur "created a hostile or abusive working environment."
"The n-word is an egregious racial epithet. That said, Smith can't win simply by proving that the word was uttered," Barrett wrote on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel. "He must also demonstrate that Colbert's use of this word altered the conditions of his employment and created a hostile or abusive working environment."
Booker then pointed out Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed by Donald Trump in 2018, seemingly disagreed with Barrett's ruling. The senator referenced a similar 2013 case in which Kavanaugh wrote: "... In my view, being called the n-word by a supervisor … suffices by itself to establish a racially hostile work environment."
Barrett disagreed with Booker, insisting her ruling did not conflict with Kavanaugh's position.
"Senator Booker, that opinion does not take a position different than Justice Kavanaugh. It expressly, and was written very carefully, to leave open the possibility that one use of that word would be sufficient to make out a hostile work environment claim."