Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity is accusing the federal government of targeting it with a politically driven investigation, after the U.S. Department of Labor slammed the jobs agency for denying access to jobless benefits.
Perhaps building upon the IRS's targeting scandal, DEO is asking for Congressional hearings and an Inspector General investigation into “improper politicization at the United States Department of Labor.”
“DEO has concluded that the USDOL investigation appears to have relied on insufficient evidence, fell far below professional standards, and may have been politically motivated,” the state jobs agency said in a statement.
DEO is objecting to the findings of an “initial determination” by the Labor Department, which found that Florida had made it difficult for the disabled and those who struggle with English to access jobless benefits they were eligible for.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature slashed jobless benefits and created new requirements for applicants, including an online-only application and a 45-question skills review. DOL initially approved of the changes, which eventually led to a sharp increase in the number of rejected applications.
Civil rights groups filed challenges with the federal government over the changes, and the first ruling came in April. DOL’s Civil Rights Center sided with the pro-worker groups, finding that DEO’s unemployment aid program discriminated against people who speak Spanish and Creole, as well as those who were blind or otherwise disabled.
DEO is now saying that the DOL findings were “flawed” and based on politics rather than facts. In letters to Congress and the U.S. Inspector General’s Office, DEO general counsel Robert Sechen accuses DOL of collaborating with the group that filed the challenge (the Miami Workers Center). Sechen also accuses a key DOL official of admitting to having a political agenda, citing a biography that states the official had worked to “keep the evil overseers of the Bush administration from dismantling U.S. federal civil rights laws.”