HR Management & Compliance

Scalia Announcement Signals No Change in Direction for DOL

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he plans to nominate Eugene Scalia as secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is seen as a continuation of the DOL’s efforts to roll back Obama-era policies.

DOLJohn Husband, an attorney with Holland & Hart LLP in Denver, Colorado, expects Scalia to continue most of the current DOL policies and the direction the department has taken over the last couple of years.

“I’ve known Gene Scalia for a long time,” Husband says. “I think he’s an outstanding choice,” adding that he has a “strong civic mind” and is a “brilliant lawyer” who is “well-qualified for the job.”

“I don’t know how anybody could doubt his qualifications,” Husband says.

But Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, does have foes among proemployee interests. For example, he was involved in killing a rule from the Clinton administration on creating ergonomic standards in the workplace. Among the many employment cases he’s worked on, Scalia also argued for Walmart against a Maryland law that would have required the company to spend more on employee health care, and he was involved in getting a fiduciary rule from the Obama-era Labor Department vacated that would have increased restrictions on retirement advisers.

‘More Likely to Trim Regulations’

Rodney L. Bean, an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Morgantown, West Virginia, says Scalia is “well-qualified for this post, having served as Labor Department solicitor and having represented clients in labor and employment matters for many years.”

Scalia served as the DOL’s principal legal officer during the George W. Bush administration.

“If he is able to gain Senate confirmation, I expect he’ll be much more likely to trim and streamline regulations than his predecessor was proving to be,” Bean says.

“The questions I have is whether he can get confirmed in a reasonable time frame,” Bean says. “Even back during the Bush administration, his confirmation for the solicitor position depended on a recess appointment. I doubt he has become any less controversial since then.”

Scalia currently is a management-side attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he cochairs the firm’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Group and is a member of the Labor and Employment Practice Group, which he cochaired for 12 years, according to his biography on the law firm’s website.

He also served as solicitor of the DOL, the department’s principal legal officer, during the George W. Bush administration, and he was a special assistant to Attorney General William Barr during Barr’s first stint as attorney general in that administration.

In addition to serving as solicitor of the DOL, he served as a special assistant to Attorney General William Barr during Barr’s first stint as attorney general in the George W. Bush administration.

Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR web and print publications.