Who Is Thomas E. Perez, President Obama’s Nominee for Labor Secretary?
National Institute for Latino Policy (March 18, 2013)
After much speculation, the word is out that President Obama will be nominating Thomas E. Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor. This would make him the first Latino that Obama would be naming to his Cabinet. It would also make him the highest-ranking Dominican in the federal government (a position he already holds).
Once nominated, he will have to go before the US Senate to be confirmed, a process he has already successfully went through for his present position in the Department of Justice. Already, the Right is attempting to smear his reputation with mudslinging that distorts his record of accomplishments. Here, for the record, is a summary of his actual track record.
Known throughout his career in public service as a consensus builder, Thomas E. Perez was nominated by President Obama to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and was sworn in on October 8, 2009.
Mr. Perez previously served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR), which protects consumers through the enforcement of a wide range of consumer rights, workplace safety, and wage and hour laws. He collaborated with businesses and workers to address critical workforce development needs and continue to build a world-class workforce. Mr. Perez was a principal architect of a sweeping package of state lending and foreclosure reforms to address the foreclosure crisis in Maryland.
Mr. Perez has spent his entire career in public service. From 2002 until 2006, he was a member of the Montgomery County Council. He was the first Latino ever elected to the Council, and served as Council President in 2005. Earlier in his career, he spent 12 years in federal public service, most of them as a career attorney with the Civil Rights Division.
As a federal prosecutor for the Division, he prosecuted and supervised the prosecution of some of the Department’s most high profile civil rights cases, including a hate crimes case in Texas involving a group of white supremacists who went on a deadly, racially motivated crime spree. Mr. Perez later served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Among other responsibilities, he chaired the interagency Worker Exploitation Task Force, which oversaw a variety of initiatives designed to protect vulnerable workers. He also served as Special Counsel to the late Senator Edward Kennedy, and was Senator Kennedy’s principal adviser on civil rights, criminal justice and constitutional issues.
Then, for two years, Mr. Perez served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. Perez was a law professor for six years at University of Maryland School of Law and was a part-time professor at the George Washington School of Public Health.
He received a Bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1983, a Master’s of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1987 and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1987. Mr. Perez lives in Maryland with his wife, Ann Marie Staudenmaier, an attorney with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and their three children.
Accomplishments of the Civil Rights Division Under Thomas E. Perez
On March 31, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. The full United States Senate confirmed Perez on October 6, 2009 in a bipartisan 72-22 vote.
Over the past 3 1/2 years, Perez has led the Civil Rights Division, building consensus with various stakeholders to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The Division enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin. Highlights include :
- A settlement agreement with the nation’s eleventh-largest school district to prevent and address discrimination in school enrollment and student discipline.
- Joining the fight to end bullying and harassment against students in schools and obtaining a major settlement to protect children from school bullying in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Minnesota.
- Obtaining The Department’s largest-ever disability-based housing discrimination settlement: a $10.5 million settlement to resolve allegations that a construction company based in Irving, Texas discriminated on the basis of disability in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes throughout the United States.
- The largest recovery ever in a sexual harassment suit brought by the Department under the Fair Housing Act: three Manhattan landlords will pay $2 million to their sexual harassment victims.
- Settling the three largest fair-lending cases in the history of the Fair Housing Act; as a result, the Division in 2012 recovered more money for victims under the Fair Housing Act than in the previous 23 years combined.
- Successful implementation of the landmark Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which provides additional tools for federal prosecutors to combat hate crimes. As a result, the number of defendants the Division convicted on hate crimes charges increased 74% during the past four years over the previous four years.
- Handling more new voting cases in 2012 than any year ever, including critical cases defending the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
- Increasing the number of human trafficking prosecutions by 40 percent during the past four years, including a record number of cases in 2012.
Supporting Our Military Families
Under Perez’s leadership, the Department continued to bring record numbers of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) cases, protecting the civilian job rights of our nation’s returning service members and veterans.
Serving Americans With Disabilities
The Civil Rights Division continued to pursue agreements to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act’s mandate, focused on safe, individualized, and cost-effective community-based services that promote integration and independence and enable individuals to live, work, and participate fully in community life.
Under Perez’s leadership, the Division launched an aggressive effort to address the unjustified segregation of people with physical, mental, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. The Division has reached landmark settlement agreements with the states of Virginia, Delaware, and Georgia that will allow thousands of individuals with disabilities to receive services in community settings, and will serve as models for comprehensive agreements with other states going forward.
Prosecuting Hate Crimes & Police Misconduct
The Department increased prosecution of criminal civil rights cases under hate crimes enforcement statutes; vigorously prosecuted human trafficking cases aided by partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners and NGOs.
The Division has continued to investigate systemic misconduct in police departments. It has various pattern or practice investigations underway nationwide and is doing more work in the area than at any time in the Division’s history.
Protecting Our Voting Rights
The Division’s voting enforcement program continued to use all the tools at its disposal, including litigation, guidance, public education, and outreach with a diverse array of stakeholders to ensure access to democratic participation for all legally qualified voters, and to ensure equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process free from discrimination.
The Division’s Voting Section has handled more new cases than in any fiscal year during at least the last 35 years. In addition, the Department continues to devote significant resources to promoting access to voter registration and the accuracy of the rolls through comprehensive enforcement of the NVRA.
Ensuring Equal Educational Opportunity
The Division continued to use Title IX to support access to justice for individual victims and hold schools liable for discrimination, prevent retaliation against those who exercise their rights, eliminate discriminatory school policies that deny women admission, ensure equal opportunities for men and women in sports, and hold schools liable for addressing and preventing sex-based harassment. In addition to the Division’s enforcement work, it has drafted new Title IX regulations; created a Title IX legal manual to assist public understanding of the law and its procedural requirements; and worked with other federal agencies to create a Title IX Science, Technology, Education, and Math in Higher Education Initiative.
Under Perez’s leadership, the Division has been actively working to address the school-to-prison pipeline, investigating numerous complaints of disparate discipline in schools and co-hosting, with the Department of Education, a first-of-its-kind convening of researchers, advocates and policy makers to address best practices for keeping students in school.
Ensuring Equal Employment Opportunity
The Division continued its work to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that all individuals have equal access to employment opportunities. Under Perez’s leadership the Division has opened myriad employment discrimination investigations, including “pattern-or-practice” investigations and increased the number of consent decrees entered.
Perez also led the Division in establishing and strengthening partnerships to combat pay discrimination and other forms of employment discrimination. This includes the establishment of a pilot program to work with EEOC field offices earlier in investigations to ensure the most efficient and effective application of each agency’s resources.
Securing Fair Lending
Since the Attorney General established the Fair Lending Unit with the Civil Rights Division in early 2010, the Division has responded forcefully by filing complaints in or resolving matters in the wake of the housing and foreclosure crisis.
Under Perez’s leadership, the Division reached three of the largest fair lending settlements in its history. In fiscal year 2012, the Department reached the three largest residential fair lending settlements in the history of the Fair Housing Act, including landmark cases against Countrywide Financial and Wells Fargo.