Last month we reported on the Obama Administration’s new “Bridge to Justice” program, in which Department of Labor farms out wage and hour complaints to contingency-fee attorneys recommended by the American Bar Association. Vice President Biden announced the plan last November, praising the program as an inventive, inexpensive new way to sue employers.
This mawkishly named scheme has drawn little subsequent attention, even though it promotes anti-business litigation and violates the spirit of the Executive Order that bars federal agencies from hiring private attorneys on a contingency basis. This “Bridge to Justice” warrants serious scrutiny from Congress.
Committees could start by posing the questions raised in a blog post by Littller Mendelson attorney Tammy McCutchen, who served as administrator of the DOL’s Labor’s Wage and Hour Division from 2001 to 2004. From “Department of Labor to Provide Information and Documents from Wage-Hour Investigations to Employees and Plaintiffs’ Attorneys“:
- Will the DOL require employees and their attorneys to file Freedom of Information Act requests before releasing information and documents from its investigation files?
- What type of documents and information will the DOL be turning over to employees and their attorneys?
- Will the employees’ attorneys be given the time records and payroll data that employers provided to the DOL during investigations (and which often include employee names, addresses, and Social Security numbers)?
- Will the DOL provide employers with notice that it is turning over company information or documents?
- Will employers be provided with the opportunity to object to release of confidential and proprietary company information?
A Department of Labor website and FAQ on the “Bridge to Justice” program addresses some of these questions, but from the perspective of the employee who wants to sue the employer. (continue reading…)