Alexis Ronickher Addresses DOL’s Firing of Janet Herold

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Alexis Ronickher was quoted in Bloomberg Law and Law360 on then-Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia’s termination of her and Debra Katz's client Janet Herold, a former top litigator in the U.S. Department of Labor.

In August 2020, Ms. Herold filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) asserting that the top three Department of Labor officials—the Secretary of Labor, the Deputy Secretary of Labor, and the Solicitor of Labor—had retaliated against her for objecting to Secretary Scalia’s improper involvement in a $400 million discrimination case against Oracle, a company with close political ties to then-President Donald Trump. 

Ms. Herold had led the litigation against Oracle, in which the Department of Labor maintained that Oracle, a federal contractor, violated anti-discrimination laws by systemically underpaying women, Asian-American and African-American employees by up to 30%.

After Eugene Scalia was appointed Secretary of Labor, Ms. Herold alleges that he broke with agency practice by improperly intervening in settlement negotiations. After Ms. Herold objected to his improper involvement, Secretary Scalia retaliated by reassigning her to a position that would prevent her from litigating on behalf of workers.

Despite the OSC’s repeated requests that the Department of Labor take no action against Ms. Herold while it investigated her complaint, Secretary Scalia approved her reassignment. 

On December 7, 2020, Ms. Herold refused the transfer, stating, "I will not accede to a prohibited personnel practice, as your reassignment is clearly an effort to punish me for my perceived political affiliation and my protesting of your improper communications with Oracle, a close and public ally of President Trump, regarding a matter under litigation by the Solicitor's Office." 

In response to Ms. Herold declining the transfer, Secretary Scalia terminated Ms. Herold’s employment, effective January 11, 2021. 

In a statement about Ms. Herold’s termination, Ms. Ronickher said of Secretary Scalia, "He took this action despite the U.S. Office of Special Counsel's ongoing investigation into the legality of the reassignment that led to the removal and in spite of the OSC's repeated request that the Secretary hold off on taking any action against Ms. Herold during its investigation.”

Ms. Ronickher also assures that Ms. Herold’s termination will not go unaddressed, stating “Ms. Herold will continue to pursue all legal options available to her for contesting the Secretary’s illegal action.”

Read the Bloomberg Law article here, and Law360 article here.