Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A with Mr. Scalia
Washington, D.C.—At the Senate Labor Committee’s confirmation hearing of Eugene Scalia to be Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the committee, called on the nominee to detail his record of protecting workers.
“From your time as solicitor, what specific examples can you provide us of when you acted to protect workers in wage and hour cases?” asked Senator Collins.
“Thank you for…focusing on that central mission of the Department,” Mr. Scalia replied.
Mr. Scalia noted that there were many such instances. He went on to describe how he secured one of the DOL’s largest settlements on record at the time shortly after becoming solicitor. It resulted in a $10 million settlement against poultry companies that were not paying employees for the time it took to put on and take off protective gear.
“When I came into the solicitor’s office, that case had been around for about two years,” explained Mr. Scalia. “I very quickly in the job sat down, looked at the applicable statute, the regulations, met with the career folks, and decided that yes, this time should be paid.”
Senator Collins followed up by asking Mr. Scalia if he could point to specific examples of where he represented employees during his work in the private sector and if he was compensated for the work.
“I did pro bono work for a number of different employees during my time at the firm,” Mr. Scalia told Senator Collins. “A young Hispanic woman who had a hearing disability believed she had been subjected to discrimination in her workplace due to her ethnicity and that condition. I represented her and was able to work out an agreement with her employer to enable her to continue to do the work she wanted to do.”
The woman wrote a letter to the Senate Labor Committee in support of Mr. Scalia’s nomination, which stated in part:
“I am a deaf, Hispanic immigrant to the United States and (as a result of divorce) a single mother, working full-time to support my special-needs daughter… In 1991, I began full-time work for a very large private employer in Washington, D.C. By 1998, the work environment there had become increasingly hostile towards me, abusive, and difficult for me to bear, and I was terrified that I would lose my job.
“Then a friend of mine recommended that I try the ‘pro-bono’ program at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and that I try to get help from Mr. Scalia in particular… At our meeting a few days later, Mr. Scalia was so kind, and thoughtful, and patient. (I remember that he even asked to see a picture of my little daughter.) I fear I must have rambled a great deal when I told my story, but he didn't seem to mind.
“Throughout my ordeal, Mr. Scalia went out of his way to help. He seemed especially to be concerned about not making things worse for me on the job, while he was vigorously defending my rights against my employer. Even though he had never seen me before and even though he knew I could never pay him, simple justice is what he wanted for this employee and worked hard to get. And that is exactly what he got for me. I am so very grateful to him for his efforts as my lawyer. And I hope you soon will allow this advocate for justice and fairness in the workforce to have an opportunity to serve the people of the United States-my adopted country-as Secretary of Labor.”
Other clients Mr. Scalia represented pro-bono included a whistleblower reporting on financial misconduct by his employer and a police officer accused of off-the-job misconduct.
After thoroughly evaluating Mr. Scalia’s qualifications, responses to written and verbal questions, and particularly his prior work at the Department, Senator Collins voted to advance Mr. Scalia’s nomination.