The Labor Department’s top lawyer on a contentious lawsuit with Oracle Corp. filed a whistleblower complaint claiming she was punished for opposing Labor Secretary
Janet Herold, a Los Angeles-based regional solicitor for the department, filed the formal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel on Aug. 7, in response to her involuntary move to lead the DOL’s occupational safety agency office in Chicago.
Herold claims Scalia ordered the reassignment in retaliation for her objections.
Herold has been the lead attorney on the Oracle litigation since it was filed by the Labor Department in January 2017, days before President
Oracle’s leadership is close with the Trump administration. The company’s co-founder Larry Ellison hosted a fundraiser for the president’s reelection campaign, and the administration spoke with current CEO Safra Catz about a potential government role.
A Labor Department spokesperson said Scalia has never communicated with Oracle or its attorneys about the litigation.
“It is entirely proper for the Secretary of Labor and the Solicitor of Labor to take an interest in high-profile litigation like the Oracle case,” the spokesperson said in an email statement. “Moreover, Ms. Herold, as the career regional solicitor, ultimately reports to the Solicitor, who in turn reports to the Secretary.”
The suggestion that DOL leadership exhibited favoritism toward Oracle is “absurd,” the spokesperson said.
Herold’s complaint alleges that Scalia intervened in the litigation after he was confirmed in late 2019, Herold’s attorneys, Debra Katz and Alexis Ronickher, said in a written statement. “The complaint states that Ms. Herold repeatedly engaged in activity protected under federal whistleblower laws, including in a November 25, 2019, memorandum requested by Secretary Scalia and the Solicitor of Labor, and most recently in early July 2020.”
She had previously challenged Scalia’s involvement in the Oracle litigation on “numerous occasions,” the attorneys said.
Herold also wrote Scalia a “detailed letter” as recently as Aug. 2, reiterating her opposition to his meddling, and explaining that removing her as the regional solicitor “threatened the Department’s ability to achieve its mission,” according to the statement.
Her tenure at the agency predates the Trump administration, and she’s repeatedly butted heads with the Labor Department’s political appointees, administration officials previously told Bloomberg Law. DOL officials told her she’ll be terminated if she doesn’t accept the conditions of the move, Herold alleges in the complaint.
Herold is requesting the DOL put her move to Chicago on hold, pending investigation of her whistleblowing and retaliation claims. She also wants Scalia and “the other DOL officials involved” to recuse themselves from making the decision to grant the hold, as well as any further intervention in the Oracle litigation.
“The Department declines to comment on personnel matters but notes that Ms. Herold is not a whistleblower and at no time has the Department engaged in retaliation against her,” the spokesperson said.
A decision on the merits of the pay discrimination lawsuit against Oracle is due any day. The case is pending before Labor Department administrative law Judge Richard Clark.