Welcome
Daily Labor Report®

Leif Olson to Rejoin Labor Department Days After Resignation

Sept. 5, 2019, 2:15 AM

Appellate lawyer Leif Olson will return to the Labor Department just days after he resigned.

Olson resigned from the agency Aug. 30, less than four hours after Bloomberg Law asked the department for comment on a Facebook conversation that referenced anti-Semitic tropes.

“On Friday, August 30, 2019, Senior Policy Advisor of the Wage and Hour Division, Leif Olson offered his resignation and the Department accepted,” the DOL said in a statement Sept. 4. “Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the Department has concluded that Mr. Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone of the content of his sarcastic social media posts and will return to his position in the Wage and Hour Division.”

DOL and Olson directed Bloomberg Law to the Department’s Sept. 4 statement when asked for comment.

Olson first started work for the agency Aug. 12, helping the Wage and Hour Division as it worked to finalize regulations on overtime pay calculations and joint liability for affiliated companies.

Eighteen days later, on Aug. 30, Bloomberg Law sent a screenshot of Olson’s August 2016 Facebook posts to the White House and DOL, noting that the full conversation was still live on Facebook at the time, and requested comment. Four hours later, the Labor Department replied, saying the agency had accepted Olson’s resignation, effective immediately.

By Sept. 2, Olson had updated his Facebook profile to delete all posts except for screenshots with names redacted, a full list of comments, and an album leading with “Greetings, Bloomberg readers.”

Public outcry over Olson’s resignation began Sept. 3, shortly after Bloomberg Law published a story about his Facebook posts and his decision to leave the agency four days earlier. Much of the criticism focused on the story’s characterization of the comments as anti-Semitic in light of context suggesting the comments were sarcastic.

The Anti-Defamation League was provided a screenshot and link to Olson’s Facebook post before he resigned and said “the post in question is clearly anti-Semitic.” The ADL updated its statement Sept. 3, after the Bloomberg Law story published, to say it appreciated Olson’s “clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question.”

Bloomberg Law reported in the Sept. 3 story that Olson said in an interview his 2016 Facebook conversation “was sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions.”

Toward the end of that Facebook conversation, one commenter said Olson’s comments were “epic sarcasm.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Terence Hyland in Washington at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karen Ertel at kertel@bloomberglaw.com; Paul Albergo at PAlbergo@bna.com