A Reflection on Workforce Development Week

By Menaka Fernando

Co-Written by Outten & Golden LLP Paralegal Toby Rae Irving

Last week President Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, made media appearances for what they dubbed “Workforce Development Week.” The President went to Wisconsin to promote an emphasis on skill-based learning and apprenticeship training, as opposed to four-year colleges. This vision for job training was shared by President Obama who passed the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act in 2014. The act focused on the workforce needs of employers and proposes a system in which training programs are developed based on those needs. In the area of employment, the Obama administration addition ally took action to protect workers’ rights, particularly within its power as an employer.

And so it is worth mentioning, following Workforce Development Week, that while the Trump administration has expressed interest in training and employment innovation on behalf of private employers and the economy at large, as an employer itself, it has set the clocks back. On March 27th of this year, one week before Equal Pay Day, President Trump revoked the Obama-era Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. This order primarily served to increase protections for female workers, if only for companies seeking federal contracts. The order most notably banned forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination allegations. Such clauses push such claims into secret processes, limiting victims’ pursuit of justice, erasing potential for public accountability. Ivanka Trump’s silence on this decision is particularly noteworthy as she has consistently claimed to be a strong advocate for women in the workplace. Meanwhile, her public-facing role in Workforce Development Week occurs amidst allegations involving working conditions in the factories that produce goods for her company.

As a law firm that regularly works with those who experience gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace, we are baffled by the administration’s decision to not hold the federal government to a higher standard of equity.  See below for resources, advocates, and community groups working on community-based job development and equity for women in the workplace.

•    ACLU – Women’s Rights in the Workplace
•    National Employment Law Center – Advocacy: Ending forced Arbitration
•    Women Employed
•    YouthBuild USA (community-based workforce development programs)