The Department of Labor Has Been a Drag
by
Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia at his confirmation hearings last fall (YouTube screenshot)

Since Donald Trump became president, the economy has been surging as red tape has been cut. Unfortunately, the Department of Labor (DOL) persists as a drag on the American economic boon, as they’re still stuck in the Obama era. After Trump’s election, Obama weaponized the DOL by initiating a series of lawsuits against government contractors in the name of progressive activism. That these politicized legal actions remain is remarkable under the pro-growth, pro-worker environment under President Trump.

The lawsuits claim discrimination, but there’s much more to it (or perhaps much less). The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) has been relying on flawed statistical analysis to determine the merit of the cases while ignoring all other factors used in applicant screening and hiring. Although those other factors are completely legitimate, statistical screening is being used to allege discrimination and, once alleged, to harass and sue the companies targeted.

The lawsuits have not been dropped under the Trump administration but continued under former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. As the Washington Post reported, “Acosta, who aspired to be a federal judge, had a strategy as secretary to play a safe, inside game running the Labor Department, according to multiple current and former administration officials” and, in order to meet that goals, he sought a strategy of placating “union leaders and Democrats on Capitol Hill.”

Acosta allowed these lawsuits to continue on the basis of wage discrimination, ignoring other legitimate criteria and the lack of evidence that discriminatory action took place. Because these are administrative rather than criminal issues (which are handled in a courtroom, and can be thrown out by a judge), the administration can continue the harassment until they choose to put a stop to it. So far, that hasn’t happened. Instead, the OFCCP has pursed costly and time-consuming action and refused all good-faith efforts to resolve issues with the companies involved.

Now that Acosta has been forced to resign, the DOL is under the leadership of Secretary Eugene Scalia. Scalia has a proven track record of success, and he has built a reputation for being an advocate for pro-growth policies that benefit American workers. The secretary is the right man for the right job in the right moment. Indeed, many political observers — and many proponents of America-First economics — are hoping that the “Under New Management” atmosphere at DOL will lead the OFCCP to withdraw a pending lawsuit against Oracle and discontinue practices that led to lawsuits against Google and tech company Palantir for discrimination.

Not only is there no basis for these lawsuits, there is also no evidence of discrimination. Google’s primary response was clear: “every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap. Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DOL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology,”

With no data, no evidence, and no methodology, these lawsuits are the last vestiges of the failed policies of the previous administration. The American people rejected such “swampy” policies of the past, and it’s way past time for President Trump to rid the DOL of what remains of Obama’s politicized legal actions.

Trump has praised Scalia as one of the most qualified people ever confirmed as Secretary of Labor.” He is more than qualified to begin an audit of the OFCCP and take measures to stop all punitive lawsuits being pursued in his DOL.

President Obama’s policies were misguided and dilatory under his own administration, and the American people suffered under slow economic growth and low wages. President Trump has the opportunity to say “you’re fired” to the remnants of Obamanomics at Department of Labor. The American worker will say “thank you, Mr. President.”

Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty. He also teaches on public policy at the College of William & Mary.

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