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Bonamici Presses Labor Secretary Acosta on Pay Discrimination, Stands Up for Tipped Workers

May 1, 2019
Press Release


WASHINGTON, DC [05/1/19] Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee, questioned Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta about pay discrimination enforcement and the Department’s harmful proposed tip rule.


In a hearing in the Education and Labor Committee, Bonamici pressed Acosta to answer for his Department’s lack of transparency about a proposed rule that would allow employers to keep, control, and redistribute workers’ tips, and the negative economic effects of the proposed rule. She also challenged the Department’s failure to protect workers, especially women, from wage discrimination. Video of Bonamici questioning at hearing can be found here.


“I am extremely concerned by Secretary Acosta’s evasive answers to my questions about workers’ wages,” Bonamici said. “The Department of Labor’s recent regulatory actions and lack of transparency have failed to adequately support and protect workers, which has severe consequences for the lives of working families and our economy. I will continue to do all I can to provide oversight of this Administration and stand up for workers.”


In December 2017, the Department proposed a rule to allow employers to keep, control, and redistribute workers’ tips. During the rulemaking process, reports revealed that the Department prepared and withheld an economic analysis quantifying the loss of income for tipped work. At that time, Bonamici and several colleagues sent a letter to the Department requesting a copy of each draft, interim, proposed, or completed economic analysis on the proposed rule.


At today’s hearing, Bonamici noted that, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, the proposed tip rule would have caused workers to lose an estimated $5.8 billion a year in tips  nearly 80 percent of which would be taken from women working in tipped jobs. She pressed Acosta on the Department’s transparency.


“As you are aware, the Department’s Office of the Inspector General is now investigating the agency’s process in crafting the proposed rule,” Bonamici said. “Have you provided the economic analysis that the Department of Labor conducted on the proposed rule to the OIG? Will you commit to being more transparent about the adverse effects of proposed rules for workers in the future?”


Recently, Bonamici chaired a hearing on persistent gender-based wage discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act passed the House in March, and that bill would address many loopholes in federal pay discrimination law. Bonamici drew attention to the Department of Labor’s obligation to audit federal contractors for pay discrimination, and she highlighted a recent Department of Labor decision to rescind guidance that directed the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to determine which workers should be considered to be doing the same job in pay discrimination audits. Once the guidance was rescinded, the Department instituted a new policy that allows employers to decide which workers should be compared by investigators for possible wage discrimination.

“It is concerning that the Department is allowing federal contractors to shape the outcome of their own audits,” Bonamici said. “The wage gap persists in nearly every line of work, regardless of education, experience, occupation, industry, or job title.”