Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority

Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority
© Greg Nash

A federal litigator filed a complaint alleging Labor Secretary Eugene ScaliaEugene ScaliaStabenow congratulates Coney Barrett, says she'll vote against her over health care Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Businesses don't operate in a financial vacuum —don't hamstring pension managers MORE abused his authority by getting involved in a pay discrimination case against Oracle, a company with ties to the White House, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Janet Herold, who has overseen the Oracle case’s litigation, submitted a complaint last week with the federal Office of Special Counsel, alleging that the Labor secretary interfered with the case to promote a settlement that she thought was too low.

Oracle’s case involves whether the tech company could owe between $300 million and $800 million in back pay for women, African American and Asian American workers who say they were paid less than white and male employees.  

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A department official with knowledge on the case told the Times that Herold informed him that she learned Scalia wanted to settle for $40 million before the case’s December trial. Herold reportedly told colleagues she opposed the proposed settlement because it was too low, the official said.

Herold’s complaint asserts that Scalia intervened in the case shortly after he was confirmed, one of Herold’s lawyers Debra Katz told the Times. The lawyer said evidence in the complaint and “the anticipated testimony of career service attorneys” at the department will show Scalia’s involvement “in intervening in the Oracle litigation were improper.”

Another lawyer for Herold, Alexis Ronickher, told the newspaper that the secretary aimed to reassign Herold to a Chicago job with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after she objected to his involvement in the case. Herold was told she would be dismissed from the department if she didn’t accept the job, the lawyer said.

In her complaint, Herold alleged Scalia abused his authority and accused him of gross mismanagement. She also said the department retaliated against her for speaking out about the secretary’s involvement and asserted Scalia discriminated against her because he perceived her as aligned with the Obama administration.

If the office determines Herold’s complaint to be credible, it could request the department not reassign her, according to the Times.  

A Labor Department spokesperson told The Hill that the secretary did nothing improper with the Oracle case with his internal discussions.

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"Secretary Scalia has never had any communications with Oracle or its attorneys concerning the Department’s litigation against the company, or any settlement discussions," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the department was continuing its case against the tech company, adding that Oracle has sued the department in a separate case.

"The suggestion that Departmental leadership exhibited improper favoritism toward Oracle is absurd," the spokesperson said.

The official declined to comment on "personnel matters" and denied Herold was a whistleblower and that the department retaliated against her.

Deborah Hellinger, an Oracle spokesperson, declined to tell the Times whether the company worked with top department officials about a settlement but said, “Anyone who followed the trial observed first hand that D.O.L.’s case lacked all evidence and merit.”

The Hill has reached out to Herold's lawyers and Oracle for comment.

Bloomberg Law first reported Herold’s reassignment to Chicago earlier this week.

One current and one former department official with knowledge of the case told the Times that the department became more involved with Herold’s legal team’s work after Scalia became secretary. 

Oracle’s chief executive Safra Catz, who had participated in Trump’s transition team, reportedly attempted to discuss the case with former Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaFederal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority Appeals court to review legality of Epstein plea deal Appeals court finds prosecutors' secret plea agreement with Epstein didn't break law MORE, but he deferred her to the legal office, two former officials told the Times.

Oracle’s officials have interacted with Trump and his administration on a number of occasions, including when the executive chairman Larry Ellison hosted a fundraiser for the president at his California property.

Updated: 6:14 p.m.