Almost exactly a year ago, the Trump administration decided to roll back an Obama-era rule that required large companies to report how much they pay workers by gender and race. Now, watchdog group Democracy Forward is alleging that Ivanka Trump was involved in this equal pay rollback, using documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to support its claim.
Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
According to Newsweek, Democracy Forward recently received email and calendar entries after suing the Office of Management and Budget. The watchdog group filed the lawsuit earlier this year after the OMB reportedly failed to respond to a public records request about Ivanka's role in the rollback. Citing the documents it ultimately received through its FOIA request, Democracy Forward told Newsweek that Ivanka's chief of staff had worked with the OMB and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to accommodate Ivanka's schedule when planning meetings on the equal pay transparency rule.
Although Ivanka has made the wage gap a key issue in her White House portfolio, she nonetheless supported the rollback of the Obama-era rule last year, stating that "the proposed policy would not yield the intended results." The rule was intended to close gender- and race-based wage gaps by requiring greater pay transparency from larger companies, NBC News reported.
“It’s clear from the emails that we’ve uncovered that Ivanka and her staff were instrumental in the administration’s decision to actually go forth with the rollback,” Democracy Forward spokeswoman Charisma Troiano told Newsweek.
In an email to Bustle on Wednesday, Troiano specifically highlights an extensive email exchange that took place last June and July between Julie Radford, Ivanka's chief of staff, and acting EEOC chair Victoria Lipnic. Most of the exchange — which aimed to organize a conference call around EEO-1, a federal survey company employment data — was redacted, but Radford indicated in one of her emails to staffers that she was “attempting to keep this initial call relatively small so we can determine best next steps and direction," according to the documents.
In the same email, Troiano sent Bustle a calendar entry of a July 19, 2017 meeting between Ivanka and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator Neomi Rao, also concerning EEO-1. Another calendar entry indicates that Ivanka and Rao also scheduled a meeting for Aug. 24, 2017; this one did not specify EEO-1, but it took place just a few days before "the issuance of the Rao memo which rolls back the EEO-1 pay data transparency tool," Troiano tells Bustle.
The revised EEO-1 form — which would have required larger employers to report W-2 wage information and hours worked for all employees, categorized by race and gender — was scheduled to go into effect in March 2018. But when the Trump administration announced its decision to roll back the Obama-era equal pay rule, this revised EEO-1 form was effectively suspended; otherwise, the federal government would have used this form as a tool to promote pay transparency.
Troiano told Newsweek that although Ivanka herself was not visibly included in the email exchanges between Radford and Lipnic, she was still invited to a meeting with six other OMB and EEOC staff members, indicating that she played an active role in deciding whether or not to roll back the equal pay rule.
At the Republican National Convention in 2016, where her father officially received the GOP nomination for president, Ivanka said that he would fight for equal pay and advocate for women. But after all of her statements about equal pay, Ivanka was silent on Equal Pay Day in April 2018 — and so was her father.
As Libby Casey pointed out in The Washington Post last year, Ivanka has built a brand out of advocating for everything from paid family leave to closing the wage gap, leading advocates of equal pay to perceive her as a potential ally in an otherwise hostile administration. But Ivanka's decision to back the equal pay rollback last year — and perhaps even to participate in the decision-making process, as Democracy Forward alleges — has equal pay advocates looking elsewhere for support.