UPDATE: Sept. 26, 2019: The full U.S. Senate confirmed Eugene Scalia as secretary of labor Thursday. Lawmakers approved his nomination 53-44.
- Secretary of Labor nominee Eugene Scalia told the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Thursday that he would "review carefully the ongoing rulemakings at the department," in response to the committee's ranking member, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asking if he would delay implementation of proposals to update overtime and joint-employer regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. "I respect the notice and comment process established by Congress," Scalia said
- Scalia, a nominee of President Donald Trump, also was questioned during his confirmation hearing about the U.S. Department of Labor's Payroll Audit Independent Determination program that Democrats have decried as a "get out of jail free" card for employers. Again replying to Murray, he said he "can not commit" to ending the self-reporting program.
- On raising the federal minimum wage, Scalia said "that's an area in which I'd like to be able to provide support to the Congress and to the President, who ultimately themselves will have to make the decision of what the proper wage is." He offered a similar answer regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act, committing to provide resources to the Senate as it debates the legislation. "I support fairness in pay and fair working conditions for women," Scalia said. "It's something that in my work at my law firm as a manager of employees was important to me."
Scalia appeared measured in his responses to committee members during a hearing that saw criticism of his record as a management-side attorney. Murray said in an opening statement that Trump had nominated "a secretary of corporate interests" who "has spent his career fighting for corporations and against workers."
The labor secretary nominee defended his record in part by pointing to past pro bono representation of workers, including a worker who had a hearing disability and who believed she had been subjected to discrimination based on her ethnicity and disability. "I represented her, was able to work out an agreement with her employer to enable her to continue the work she wanted to do," Scalia said.
One highlight of the hearing occurred during questioning by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who pointed to a 1985 article Scalia wrote critically on the subject of a "gay awareness week." Scalia said during the hearing Thursday that "I wouldn't write those words today, in part because I now have friends and colleagues to whom they would cause pain."
In response to questioning from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Scalia said he believes it is wrong for an employer to terminate an employee on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. "Most of my clients had policies against that, certainly my firm did, and it's something that would not have been tolerated by me or my firm, or most of my clients." On the trio of Title VII cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding employment discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, Scalia said he "didn't know the position being staked out by the EEOC" in the cases.
Scalia formerly served as solicitor of labor during the administration of President George W. Bush in 2002. As an attorney, he represented employers in a variety of employment cases on issues ranging from healthcare benefits to the DOL's now-vacated fiduciary rule for employer-sponsored retirement plans. The committee will decide whether to advance Scalia's nomination during an executive session on Tuesday, Sept. 24.