ERA Statement on the Nomination of Eugene Scalia

September 20. 2019
ERA Staff

Working Women Don’t Need a Labor Secretary that Believes in “One Free Grope”


As a civil rights organization defending the rights of working women for 45 years, Equal Rights Advocates vigorously opposes the nomination of Eugene Scalia for Labor Secretary.

Mr. Scalia has spent the majority of his legal career catering to corporate and employer power, while narrowing protections for workers. He is, quite simply, not suitable to serve as this country’s chief advocate for working people – particularly for working women.

Working families need a Labor Secretary who will fight for their health, safety, and economic security. A leader who is dedicated to upholding the Department of Labor’s promise to ensure workers are paid fairly, have the freedom go to work without fear of harassment and assault, and are provided opportunities for job training that lead to successful careers. Someone who recognizes the value of the average working person — and not just as a means for extracting profits.

Mr. Scalia’s history of aggressively fighting against workers’ well-being on behalf of corporate interests at virtually every turn is an immediate disqualification.

One of the Department of Labor’s greatest responsibilities is to create and enforce policies that promote the safety and well-being of our nation’s labor force. Mr. Scalia’s history of aggressively fighting against workers’ well-being on behalf of corporate interests at virtually every turn is an immediate disqualification.

In Scalia’s world, employers would face radically decreased liability for sexual misconduct in the workplace. In a 1998 law review article, Scalia describes two hypothetical scenarios — one where a supervisor repeatedly gropes his assistant during a business trip, and another where a second supervisor does the same and tells her that’s what he did with her predecessors. Scalia concludes, remarkably, “I believe the employer should not be liable in any of these scenarios unless it endorsed the conduct.”

We have recently eliminated the “one free grope” rule here in California and we believe it is a standard all employers should follow. To have a Labor Secretary who believes not only should an employer get all the gropes but also escape liability for repeated acts of sexual harassment is grossly disqualifying.

A Labor Secretary who has built his career on the bent backs of everyday working people is the wrong choice to lead the Department of Labor. We urge senators to reject Eugene Scalia’s nomination as the next Secretary of Labor as an act of solidarity with working women everywhere.

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