Congressional Democrats have found a useful ally in frustrating President Trump's labor policy: the Inspector General of the Labor Department. The Democrats have been given the official internal watchdog for the employment office to conduct a general investigation into how the office writes its rules and regulations.
Inspector General Scott Dahl of the Labor Department told important Democrats in Congress about the general issue in a letter dated January 25. In essence, Dahl said he would simply add the latest request from the Democrats for an investigation with the others they had asked for and a large umbrella probe for the entire department.
"Prior to receiving your letter … the OIG had identified the need for a broader review of the regulatory process at DOL," he said, adding that they incorporated "the Democrat's last request". He said that they also "review the integrity of the regulatory process in the Health and Safety Administration".
A former senior civil servant from the UK employment agency who reviewed the letter to the examiner in Washington said the Inspector General's language was extraordinarily broad. & # 39; If I was in the department, I would certainly have a conversation with Scott, that said: & # 39; Really? Do you really want to look at all this? "Ultimately, of course, it is good within his authority," said the official, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly.
The process means that the staff at the Inspector General's office can review all documents involved in formulating the other proposal, including the public comments requested, a lengthy and laborious process that would result in regular tasks from department officials. A negative report would invite the congress of the Congress.
The Inspector General's office decided to do the assessment in response to both requests from Congress and some news reports about the administration's process. The US Congress requests made what would otherwise be routine assessments, a broader, higher priority.
The Democrats got the probes in the old-fashioned way: by asking nicely. Requests from legislators, especially committee chairmen, are typically a "priority" for the Inspector General, said the Obama official, although the Inspector General has the final word on whether to start an investigation. The members of both parties ask for probes and the party that does not have the White House usually makes a lot of it.
Inspectors-general at cabinet level are appointed president, but they serve once for an indefinite period. They can be removed by the president, but only because of the cause. Former President Barack Obama appointed Dahl in 2013.
The letter of January 25 was in response to a request from the Bobby Scott, D-Va., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Wash., And other lawmakers from House Education and Labor Committee. They had called for an investigation into a proposed DOL rule that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to service medical patient lifts. The healthcare system had argued that rules intended to restrict the use of traditional forklift trucks should not be applied to them, but the Democrats argued that offering an exemption would jeopardize minors.
The Inspector General had already opened an investigation last year in response to requests from the Democrats regarding a proposed rule that would have allowed restaurant owners to claim and redistribute server tips. The restaurant industry had pushed to the rule and claimed that because most tips went to servers, other tasks such as chefs and dishwashers could not be filled. Allowing owners to exchange tips between all employees would solve the problem. The Trump administration agreed. Democrats claimed that it was a trick to allow owners to keep the tips for themselves. They pointed to a Good Politic report claiming that the DOL deliberately omitted important statistical data from the proposal as evidence that a study was needed.
Scott told the examiner in Washington that he was glad that the squeaky wheel had been given the grease. "The Department of Labor's approach to the tip line and child labor regulations raised serious questions about the regulatory process of the Ministry of Labor, and the Office of Inspector General's decision to broaden the overall regulatory process of the the department is an important step, "he said.
Ironically enough, Trump's board left the tip proposal almost a year ago when it agreed with a budget text with a language written by the democrat that it explicitly forbade. Nevertheless, the Inspector General's letter revealed that he is still investigating the circumstances that led the administration to put forward the idea in the first place.
The employment office did not respond to a request for comment.
Another Democratic victory came last year after Warren, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., And other lawmakers had examined the Inspector General David P. Berry of the National Labor Relations Board to investigate Trump's voices in several important cases. Berry determined that NLRB member William Emanuel, a White House appointee, had a conflict of interest and should have withdrawn from a major 2017 issue called Hy-Brand. The NLRB ruling in Hy-Brand led to a statement from the Obama era that the doctrine of the & # 39; common employer & # 39; that significantly increased the legal liability of companies by holding franchise companies accountable for workplace violations at their franchisees.
Emanuel denied that there was a conflict and noted that none of his customers from his old law firm Littler Mendelson were involved in Hy-Brand. Berry decided, however, that Hy-Brand destroyed a case in 2015 called Browning-Ferris in which Emanuel's old company was involved, that it brought the two things together. The remaining board members decided to leave the Hy-Brand ruling on the basis of the Inspector General's findings. This effectively undermined the efforts of Republican members to undo "the joint employer". The board has since announced that it will try to rewrite the rule altogether.