Ex-Labor Chief Acosta to Get In-Person Reception Jan. 7 From DOL

Jan. 4, 2021, 7:53 PM

The U.S. Labor Department is hosting a reception this week to honor former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, inviting Trump appointees to an in-person event during the pandemic.

Current and former DOL employees, including those who now live outside Washington, D.C., are invited to the event inside the agency’s Washington headquarters to view Acosta’s portrait unveiling, according to an invitation obtained by Bloomberg Law and confirmed by three invitees. Guests are asked—not ordered—to wear face-coverings “except when eating and drinking” and requested to “follow social distancing practices.”

Acosta resigned in 2019 amid public outcry over his handling of a decade-old plea deal for accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. His leadership tenure was also marked by clashes with White House advisers who felt the risk-averse Acosta was slow-walking deregulatory measures coveted by businesses.

It’s unclear how many people plan to attend. There are about 150 political appointees currently at the department and at least a few dozen who worked at the DOL earlier in the administration and have since left, according to an agency official.

Acosta’s event will be held at the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins Building, a spacious area where walls are covered with paintings of other past labor secretaries.

President Donald Trump and members of his senior team have faced criticism for holding large events where maintaining at least six feet of distance is difficult. That includes a series of holiday parties hosted by the State Department for families of U.S. diplomats.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against large gatherings that risk spreading Covid-19, particularly when attendees travel from out of town. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a mask mandate, which remains in effect but it excludes federal government employees on duty.

DOL media representatives declined to address questions about any additional safety precautions being taken to prevent coronavirus infection, such as whether guests will be required to test negative before entering.

“The Department follows safety protocols for all meetings and events,” a DOL spokeswoman said in a statement.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Acosta to have waited for his event to be held during the Biden administration. President Barack Obama‘s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis had a similar portrait unveiling reception earlier in the Trump administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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