Senators challenge administration on layoff advice

Sen. Kelly AyotteTwo Republican senators are asking Obama administration officials to provide legal justification for committing the government to pay federal contractors’ legal fees that could arise from not sending out layoff notices to employees in the wake of sequestration.

“We are concerned about the authority of the executive branch to instruct private employers not to comply with federal law and to promise to pay the monetary judgments and litigation costs that arise out of the lawsuits that may follow,” Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wrote Oct. 1 in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffery Zients.

Sen. Charles Grassley

In a memo released Sept. 28, OMB told federal contractors to not send out employee layoff notices as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. OMB promised to pay WARN Act liabilities, attorney’s fees and other litigation costs, if sequestration takes effect Jan. 2.  (Read the memo here.)

The senators want to know how the Obama administration concluded that it did not need congressional approval before committing to pay judgments, settlements and attorney’s fees. They also want to know how much OMB expects it would pay out to cover the costs and from what fund would officials take the money.

Grassley and Ayotte asked OMB to respond by Oct. 8.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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