Washington, D.C. – In a new letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt this morning, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) warns of potential legal liability for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) stemming from BLM’s forced move of employees based in Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo., and elsewhere throughout the West. Without analyzing the forced move’s potential impacts on BLM staff diversity, Grijalva writes, the Trump administration is opening the agency to lawsuits on the basis of discrimination – a charge already supported by agency staffing data.
In his letter, available at http://bit.ly/2rSYmbe, Grijalva points out that according to the Office of Personnel Management, BLM only employs 312 Black/African-American employees nationwide – less than 3.5 percent of the agency’s total workforce – and of those 312 employees, 41 percent are headquartered in Washington. “Many of the positions targeted for relocation will be moved to states and communities where the total Black/African-American population is significantly smaller,” Grijalva writes.
Grijalva and other Democrats on the Committee have asked DOI to share any analysis the Trump administration has conducted of the forced move’s likely impact on BLM employees and their families. Failing to assess those impacts, Grijalva writes today, goes beyond irresponsible management and opens the federal government to likely legal action. Grijalva points out that the Committee has “repeatedly requested the reorganization be halted” until DOI shares relevant information with the Committee.
“If there is a disparate impact on any protected class of employees, the agency would be exposed to significant legal liability that could rival the cost of the entire relocation,” Grijalva writes. “DOI could be sued by its own employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [. . .] Without an analysis showing the proposed reorganization would not have a disparate impact, or would serve a legitimate, non-discriminatory business need, BLM’s vulnerability to a successful lawsuit would increase dramatically. It would be reckless for DOI to fail to perform such an analysis.”
Grijalva asks Bernhardt to either provide “any disparate impact analysis for the DOI reorganization and/or the BLM relocation, along with any estimate of legal exposure DOI faces, or confirm that neither has been done,” by Dec. 11.
# # #
Stay in touch with Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee