January 31, 2019

Inspector General to Audit Labor Department's Rulemaking Process for Controversial Child Labor Policy, at Request of Warren and Scott

Text of Labor Inspector General's Letter (PDF) 

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, and Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, have received word that the Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Inspector General (IG) will incorporate a review of the DOL's proposal to allow 16- and 17-year-olds working in nursing homes and hospitals to operate power-driven patient lifts without the presence of an adult into its review of DOL's rulemaking processes. The audit comes in response to a letter Senator Warren and Chairman Scott sent on January 7th, 2019, raising concerns that DOL deviated from agency regulatory and data quality requirements when it proposed the rule relaxing child labor standards in healthcare fields. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) also joined the letter.

DOL policy prohibits workers under 18 years of age from operating or assisting in the operation of several types of hoisting apparatus for nursing home and hospital patients without supervision. On September 27, 2018, DOL proposed a rule to overturn this policy, a move that would in effect allow young workers to perform potentially dangerous work alone. The lawmakers found that DOL not only failed to disclose the evidentiary basis for the new rule, as required, but also failed to answer questions from Congress about whether DOL rulemaking incorporated reliable, accurate data.

In addition to agreeing to audit this specific rulemaking, the DOL IG told Senator Warren and Chairman Scott that the faulty rulemaking will be incorporated in the Department's ongoing, broader review of its rulemaking processes. That broader review also includes DOL's early 2018 proposal that would have allowed employers to take employees' tips. After DOL issued that proposal, reports surfaced that Trump administration officials hid an internal analysis that showed the proposal would cost workers billions of dollars. Senator Warren and Chairman Scott sent several oversight letters questioning the administration about this decision.

"Inspector General Dahl's response is a welcome step toward ensuring that the Department of Labor is truly acting in the interests of young workers in hospitals and nursing homes," said Senator Warren. "This is not the first time in recent memory that the Department has tried to roll back workers' rights on the basis of questionable or hidden evidence, so I am glad that the Inspector General is taking a broad look at the Department's rulemaking processes as well."

"When an agency puts out a rule, it is required by law to demonstrate that the rule is supported by evidence and that the rule's benefits justify its costs. The Department of Labor's approach to the tip rule and the child labor regulations raised serious questions about the Department of Labor's rulemaking process. The Office of Inspector General's decision to do a broader review of the Department's entire rule making process is an important step towards shedding light on this approach and restoring workers' faith in the Department charged with protecting their rights," said Chairman Scott.

Senator Warren has been fighting for government transparency and increased public integrity across the federal government. Her Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act would address the pattern of corporate interests hijacking rulemaking processes at federal agencies and make sure that rulemaking is conducted in the interest of all Americans.