Workplace Civil Rights on the Line: Oracle v. Dept. of Labor

April 3. 2020

For Immediate Release
Apr 3, 2020

Media Contact
Jess Eagle
[email protected]


ERA defends DOL’s civil rights enforcement authority

On April 3, Equal Rights Advocates filed an amicus curiae brief in a lawsuit brought by tech giant Oracle against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that threatens to eviscerate the DOL’s authority to enforce civil rights laws for nearly one-quarter of the civilian workforce in the United States: workers employed by federal contractors. Washington D.C.-based firm Wilkinson Walsh filed the brief pro bono on behalf of amici. 

The brief, co-signed by 12 former DOL and EEOC officials as well as 53 workers’ and civil rights organizations across the country, urges the court to dismiss Oracle’s lawsuit in order to maintain the DOL’S longstanding authority to enforce discrimination laws against federal contractors through its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

If Oracle’s lawsuit is successful, it would eliminate the OFCCP’s decades-old authority to enforce an Executive Order that prohibits discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors, significantly weakening civil rights protections for millions of workers nationwide, and making it impossible for the agency to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used by government contractors fund discrimination and bigotry.

Those who care about protecting the civil rights of our federal contractor workforce...will not sit idly by and allow their civil rights to be dismantled by rendering enforcement agencies toothless. — Jennifer Reisch, Legal Director

It is no coincidence that Oracle’s lawsuit came after the DOL sued the company first in one of the largest federal anti-discrimination cases to ever go before a judge, which found that Oracle had underpaid women, Black, and Asian employees for years and owed those employees $401 million in backpay. That case went to trial in December 2019, just one week after Oracle filed its complaint claiming that the OFCCP’s enforcement of anti-discrimination and equal pay laws is “unconstitutional.”

“If Oracle’s case were successful, it would take away a crucial tool from the OFCCP, an agency that exists to make sure our tax dollars are not used to fund discrimination against working people,” said Jennifer Reisch, Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates. “Those who care about  protecting the civil rights of our federal contractor workforce — which includes millions of women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ workers, immigrant workers, and others who face multiple forms of discrimination — will not sit idly by and allow their civil rights to be dismantled by rendering  enforcement agencies toothless,” Reisch said.

Patricia Shiu, who led OFCCP from 2009 to 2016 and was one of the 12 former government officials to join the brief, said: “For decades, the OFCCP has protected the rights of applicants and employees of federal contractors from invidious discrimination through compliance and enforcement, ensuring that taxpayer dollars — recently $550 billion for goods and services in a single year — are not used to engage in discrimination.”

For over 40 years, Equal Rights Advocates and our clients have relied on the OFCCP to help ensure equity in workplaces, especially for women working in blue-collar occupations and male-dominated industries, who suffer high levels and extreme forms of discrimination and harassment on the job and often face retaliation or blacklisting for reporting those violations.

Failure to dismiss this case could result in the undoing of years of progress to support women’s access to high-wage careers in construction, manufacturing and transportation. It would also set back national efforts to further women’s pay equity across occupations and eliminate the national gender wage gap.

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