Politico

Labor Department lawyer leading Oracle case alleges interference by secretary


The Labor Department attorney spearheading a pay discrimination lawsuit against Oracle has filed a whistleblower complaint, arguing she was removed from her post after objecting to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia becoming involved in the case.

Attorneys for Regional Solicitor Janet Herold assert in a complaint filed last week that she raised repeated concerns about Scalia improperly interfering in the lawsuit after he became head of the Labor Department in September 2019, the lawyers said in a statement Thursday. Herold raised these objections again in a letter in July and was reassigned to a different position weeks later, said the attorneys, from the firm Katz, Marshall & Banks.

Alleged political interference: Herold’s attorneys contend that Scalia’s involvement in the case was politically motivated, as Oracle has cultivated deep ties with President Donald Trump and senior members of his administration. For instance, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison held a fundraiser for Trump earlier this year and CEO Safra Catz has donated large sums to the president’s reelection effort. Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

Herold’s investigation of Oracle began during the Obama era, and the department’s lawsuit was filed two days before Trump’s inauguration. Attorneys for Herold say the agency’s leadership also targeted her because of her affiliation with the Obama administration.

What’s at stake: The Labor Department argues that Oracle underpaid roughly 6,000 female and minority employees hundreds of millions of dollars, making the suit one of the largest discrimination cases ever pursued by the federal government.

What the Labor Department is saying: A Labor Department spokesperson told POLITICO that Scalia has not engaged in settlement discussions or other communication with Oracle or its attorneys. The spokesperson also noted that the company and the agency are involved in other legal disputes. “The suggestion that Departmental leadership exhibited improper favoritism toward Oracle is absurd,” the spokesperson said.

Furthermore, the spokesperson denied that Herold is a whisteblower or the victim of retaliation.

What’s next: Herold’s attorneys are requesting that her reassignment be put on hold pending an investigation into her complaint. Such a move would require Scalia’s approval, so attorneys have also requested that he and other Labor Department leaders involved in the matter recuse themselves.

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