Washington, DC – In a significant defeat for the Trump administration, a federal Court ruled last night that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget broke the law when it rolled back a tool that is critical for enforcing equal pay laws and protecting against wage discrimination. Plaintiffs National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), represented by Democracy Forward and NWLC, sued the administration for unlawfully halting this requirement in August of 2017.

The Court held that by reversing this policy without any reasoned explanation, the administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act’s prohibition of “arbitrary and capricious” policymaking and fully reinstated the equal pay policy.

The EEOC had previously determined that collecting employee pay data by race, gender and ethnicity is a necessary tool for combating pay discrimination; and OMB approved the collection of such data. But in one of her first actions as OIRA Administrator, Neomi Rao claimed there was no “practical utility” to collecting this pay data, and OMB halted the equal pay protection. As nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Rao faced questions at her Senate confirmation hearing about her involvement in the rollback of these critical protections.

“This is a major victory for equal pay advocates and the rule of law. The court’s judgment was clear: the Trump administration broke the law when it rolled back these critical equal pay protections,” said Anne Harkavy, Executive Director of Democracy Forward. “This ruling means that for nearly 63 million workers, tools are now available to protect against pay discrimination.”

In issuing its opinion, the Court found that:

  • OMB’s justification for halting the pay data collection was “misdirected, inaccurate, and ultimately unpersuasive”

  • OMB’s action violated its own regulation, and was arbitrary and capricious

  • OMB’s decision to stay the collection of information lacked the reasoned explanation that the APA requires

  • The deficiencies in OMB’s decision were substantial, OMB provided inadequate reasoning to support its decision, and OMB’s reasoning lacked support in the record

  • OMB had improperly relied on speculation by industry lobbyists

Just last month, this federal Court rejected the government’s attempt to exclude an internal Trump administration memo which directly refuted the rationale that OMB claimed justified the administration’s action and showed the Trump administration knew its pretext for halting equal pay protections was without merit.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

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