A Watchdog Group Is Suing To Find Out If Ivanka Helped End This Equal Pay Rule

by Monica Hunter-Hart
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During her father's campaign for president, Ivanka Trump portrayed herself as a women's advocate who would push for gender equality policies if he was elected. She seems to have walked back her commitment to fighting for women since then, in part through her shifting stance on the pay gap. Last summer, she defended President Trump's rollback of an Obama-era rule requiring major employers to report data on the gendered breakdown of their employees' wages, and on Tuesday, one watch group filed a lawsuit to learn more about Ivanka's involvement in that equal pay rule rollback.

The organization behind the suit is Democracy Forward, a nonprofit that monitors the executive branch's activities. It filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in November to receive materials from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) related to the rule's repeal and Ivanka's role in it. OMB didn't comply, which Democracy Forward says is illegal — so now it's suing.

In its own words, the lawsuit — filed Tuesday in a D.C. court — intends to force the OMB "to produce documents that would shed light on the role Ivanka Trump had in the decision to suspend implementation of a rule that would have required companies to report pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission."

Bustle reached out to the White House for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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The rule was created by President Obama in January 2016 and would have obligated big companies — defined as those with over 100 employees — to track more detailed information about how their workers' wages break down across gendered, racial, and ethnic lines. Companies would have needed to report this data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

But President Trump rolled back the rule last August, one month before some provisions were slated to take effect. His administration justified the repeal by arguing that the requirements were "unnecessarily burdensome" for employers and did "not adequately address privacy and confidentiality issues."

The first daughter apparently agreed. "Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results," she said at the time. "We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap."

Democracy Forward sued the administration in November for rolling back the rule, claiming that the action was "arbitrary and capricious" as well as unlawful, because the OBM did not "have the authority to stay a collection of data required by agency rule." The watch group hopes to use materials from the FOIA request to support its case.

Specifically, Democracy Forward hopes to obtain correspondence between the OMB and Trump or her associates, as well as any records from her phone calls and meetings about the rollback. The organization filed the request on Nov. 16 and was supposed to hear back from the OMB within 20 days, but the office never responded.

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When asked why the group chose to focus on the first daughter in its response to the rollback, Democracy Forward told Bustle, "We were curious because, as you know, Ivanka was outspoken in support of equal pay yet, in a short period of time as an advisor to the president, she stood behind the rollback of tools designed to root out pay discrimination."

"Ivanka Trump's claim to be an advocate for women rings hollow when she actively harms efforts to secure equal pay for women," Anne Harkavy, the executive director of Democracy Forward, said in a statement after submitting the FOIA request in November. "This action by the White House is both unlawful and unfair to women, yet Ivanka Trump supported it, despite vowing to fight for pay equity."

Fittingly, Democracy Forward filed its lawsuit on Equal Pay Day. The first daughter tweeted about the national day of advocacy in 2017 but remained silent this year.