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Litigator Who Sued Oracle Exits DOL for Second Time This Year

March 30, 2021, 3:54 PM

The U.S. Labor Department’s top West Coast attorney, who was terminated late in the Trump administration only to be reinstated under President Joe Biden, is departing the agency to take a legal position at a nonprofit.

Janet Herold will be stepping down as DOL’s Pacific region solicitor, effective in April, to join the organization Justice Catalyst Law, which focuses on social justice issues. Herold, who confirmed her impending departure, informed her staff on Friday, six weeks after the Biden administration reinstalled her to the influential post of DOL regional solicitor for San Francisco and head of branch offices in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Herold, the driving force behind a series of employment discrimination cases against Silicon Valley tech powers, was fired by former Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia in the Trump administration’s final days after she refused to accept a transfer to a non-legal position. The Obama-era hire had previously filed a whistleblower complaint against Scalia, alleging the transfer was retaliation after she’d voiced opposition to what she described as Scalia’s attempts to interfere in DOL’s high-profile pay bias lawsuit against Oracle—a case the department eventually lost. Scalia denied her accusations in responses issued through DOL spokespeople at the time.

Before she was fired, a political official at DOL during the Trump administration wrote a letter to a Democratic lawmaker calling Herold’s retaliation claim “meritless” and arguing that it rested “on erroneous speculation regarding matters she is not in a position to know.”

Vacancies and Attrition

Herold’s exit this time will bring to a close a tumultuous chapter for the department’s San Francisco-based litigation office, an eight-state jurisdiction known for spearheading aggressive wage-hour and workplace discrimination cases. It also creates a key vacancy for Labor Secretary Marty Walsh as he works to reorient the department’s enforcement regime.

“I have enjoyed and am proud of my work with the Department advocating for the rights of vulnerable workers but I could not say no to this opportunity,” Herold said in a prepared statement.

Jesse Lawder, a DOL spokesman, declined to comment on Herold’s departure.

Katherine Bissell, formerly DOL’s deputy solicitor for regional enforcement—and Herold’s direct supervisor—retired in February, creating another opening in the Office of the Solicitor’s leadership ranks. The office, which functions as the department’s central legal division, has shrunk from 693 full-time employees in fiscal 2013 to 576 at the end of fiscal 2020.

Last year, the department requested additional funds from Congress to boost staffing in the Office of the Solicitor, and a document posted on DOL’s website during the Biden transition warned that the office’s “ability to have staff to provide legal services has diminished.”

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Travis Tritten at ttritten@bgov.com

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