Communications Workers of America, United Steelworkers Seek to Intervene in Crucial Case to Defend Civil Rights Enforcer

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and United Steelworkers (USW) filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Oracle America against the Department of Labor in which Oracle seeks to invalidate the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) authority to enforce civil rights laws against federal contractors.

If successful, Oracle’s challenge would restrict a key civil rights enforcement agency and undermine employees’ protections against workplace discrimination. Against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s pattern of weakening nondiscrimination protections and its efforts to hamstring OFCCP, there is substantial reason to think that the defendants will not provide a vigorous defense of OFCCP’s enforcement authority. Represented by Democracy Forward, the National Women’s Law Center, and Massey & Gail, CWA and USW are seeking to intervene to protect the interests of workers by defending the federal agency’s authority to enforce the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.

OFCCP describes itself as one of the “premier civil rights agencies in the federal government…on the front lines of…enforcing the laws that…ban discrimination in employment.” Impairment of the agency’s enforcement authority could have sweeping ramifications on the ability of workers at federal contractors to obtain meaningful remedies, such as back pay and reinstatement, for discriminatory practices.

If OFCCP loses its authority to enforce these critical civil rights protections, USW and CWA would have greater difficulty in helping their members obtain relief for race- and gender-based workplace discrimination at federal contractor employers.

“All workers are entitled to workplaces free from discrimination,” said Fred Redmond, USW International Vice President (Human Affairs). “We must preserve this vital agency and its ability to meaningfully protect the civil rights of workers employed by federal contractors.”

“Our government should be making sure federal contractors comply with health and safety standards, wage laws, and civil rights laws, but the Trump administration has been doing just the opposite,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “We have a saying in the labor movement: an injury to one is an injury to all. We seek to intervene today to ensure someone is there to stand up for the federal programs that provide vital protections to workers against workplace discrimination.”

“OFCCP is a key civil rights enforcement agency, and the Trump administration has already tried to dismantle it once,” said Emily Martin, NWLC Vice-President for Education & Workplace Justice. “The National Women’s Law Center is proud to represent CWA and USW to ensure that this Administration does not use Oracle’s attempt to avoid accountability for discrimination as an opportunity to render toothless a leading government watchdog for workers’ rights.”

“The Trump administration’s repeated attempts to undermine this agency’s ability to enforce core civil rights laws raise real concerns about who will protect the workers who drive America’s economy,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “We are proud to partner with two important unions committed to protecting America’s workers.”

In today’s filing, Lethea “Lee” Perry, CWA’s administrative director for West Virginia, describes firsthand how workers and potential workers could be impacted if OFCCP did not have authority to enforce laws prohibiting gender and race discrimination.

In 2019, federal contractor Frontier Communications Corporation entered into a conciliation agreement with OFCCP for allegedly discriminating against female applicants on the basis of gender at its Charleston, WV facility.  In exchange for OFCCP not bringing a formal enforcement action, Frontier agreed to offer positions to class members. Without OFCCP’s enforcement authority, the benefits of this agreement to unionized and other workers would disappear.

Underlying the unions’ concerns are multiple actions the Trump administration has taken to weaken or dismantle OFCCP. These include: the administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal to eliminate OFCCP altogether by merging it with EEOC; the shift in the office’s priorities from enforcement to encouraging voluntary compliance; the slashing of OFCCP staffing and investigations, even as federal contracts have increased; the tightening of control over the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board that hears appeals involving OFCCP enforcement actions; and, the proposal of rules that limit OFCCP’s enforcement efforts to the benefit of employers.

Oracle launched its lawsuit collaterally attacking OFCCP’s authority after the agency alleged the tech company owes $400 million in back pay for race and sex discrimination.

The motion to intervene was filed on March 18, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.