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Contractor Watchdog Head Tapped for Government Worker Agency (1)

Feb. 3, 2020, 6:41 PMUpdated: Feb. 3, 2020, 9:38 PM

Labor Department official Craig Leen will be nominated for the role of Inspector General at the Office of Personnel Management, the White House announced.

Leen currently heads the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces anti-discrimination laws for federal contractors. The agency has accused JPMorgan Chase & Co., Google, Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., and Oracle Corp., of alleged pay bias and other workplace discrimination.

Leen, a former city attorney in South Florida, took the helm of the OFCCP on an acting basis when previous director and Trump administration appointee Ondray Harris stepped down to join law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth. Leen officially became OFCCP director in December 2018. Unlike appointees for other federal civil rights agencies, the role of OFCCP director doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

The Office of the Inspector General has been without a permanent leader since Patrick McFarland retired. Norbert Vint has held the role on an acting basis since February 2016.

It wasn’t immediately announced who will take over if Leen leaves the OFCCP. The Labor Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pay Lawsuits, Disability Protections

Leen joined the OFCCP as a senior adviser in 2017 after lawsuits against Google, Oracle, and JPMorgan Chase already had been filed. As director, he sought a larger role in litigation developments—a move that rankled some career attorneys within the Labor Solicitor’s office.

The litigation with Oracle has been particularly heated, with the administrative law judge overseeing the case routinely scolding both parties for their contentious litigation tactics. The agency alleges Oracle owes women and minorities $400 million for systemically underpaying workers at the company’s headquarters.

The Silicon Valley technology giant also is suing the OFCCP in federal district court, alleging the Labor Department’s administrative trial system for discrimination claims violates the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers. Oracle filed the lawsuit a week before it was due to appear in a hearing on the merits of the pay bias case.

Leen is also known as an advocate for workers with disabilities, inspired by his two children, both of whom have forms of autism. He launched focused investigations into contractors’ hiring, retention, and promotion practices for people with disabilities, and recognized contractors with an award for going above and beyond baseline requirements for providing equal employment opportunity to individuals with disabilities.

Religious Rule, Other Regulatory Action

Several OFCCP proposed rules spearheaded under Leen’s tenure remain pending, including one on defenses religious contractors can raise if hit with discrimination claims. The proposed rule drew more than 100,000 comments—the most received since the OFCCP launched its online comment portal in 2003.

LGBT advocates say the initiative weaponizes religious freedom, while religious federal contractors welcomed the clarification of the defenses available to them.

The agency also has pending rules on how the agency resolves findings of discrimination, and a potential exemption from OFCCP oversight for health-care facilities that participate in the Defense Department’s TRICARE program.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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