Technology Companies to Fight Coronavirus, If We Allow Them

March 28, 2020 Updated: March 29, 2020

Commentary

As life has ground to a halt, Americans have shifted successfully to working remotely because of tools developed by technology companies.

“About half of U.S. workers have jobs that could at least partially be done remotely, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics,” The Chicago Tribune reported on March 16. “A good share—43% of workers—telecommute sometimes, but on average only two days a month, according to a 2016 Gallup survey. Just 3.8% work at home at least half the time, a share that’s nearly tripled since 2006.”

Anyone who is working from home appreciates the tools that Google, Apple, Amazon, Oracle, and others have developed and deployed to keep us connected.

“Alphabet’s health subsidiary Verily is planning to launch a national coronavirus website later this week,” the research firm CBInsights reported in a March 19 newsletter. “Google is also working with other tech giants to help the government track the spread of the disease.”

It goes without saying that we can’t allow these companies to be diverted from this important work. Yet ongoing legal actions force them to take their eyes off the ball and spend their time on legal defense rather than operating on technological offense.

The problem started in the final hours of the Obama administration, when departing bureaucracy lawsuits against high-technology government contractors started flying.

These lawsuits, targeting Oracle, Google, and Palantir, were brought by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the Department of Labor.

OFCCP is supposed to promote affirmative action in hiring by federal contractors. To file these suits, though, the agency relied on statistical analysis of hiring and promotion data. Statistical analyses by bureaucrats with one foot out the door … what could go wrong?

The Department of Labor lacks any authority under federal law to pursue the suits, which are nothing more than the sort of progressive legal activism that was popular under the liberal Obama administration. Lack of authority never stopped the Obama administration. The federal suits are ongoing, charging important companies with “alleged discrimination.”

That’s a nice way of labeling a company “racist” or “misogynist.”

A 2017 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce explains how the process works.

OFCCP starts by demanding that a government contractor provide enormous amounts of data in a short time frame. They also allow the employer to contest the matter before an administrative judge, who is an employee of the same agency requesting the documents. They end up asking for whatever they want ,with no real way to contest the scope of the request.

The Department of Labor has been known to bully employers by just setting dates for on-site investigations without allowing the employer to move the date, or contest the legal issues brought up by the inspection. Has anyone ever heard of a bullying government lawyer? They start with threatening reputation assassination and move on to draining you dry.

When the contractor falls short of these impossible demands, the agency can refuse to give it more time, and can sue, hoping the contractor will settle to make the suit go away. The process is completely one-sided and unfair.

The Chamber warns that the “OFCCP has become an agency that appears to focus more on garnering splashy headlines and securing high-dollar settlements than it does simply pursuing its admirable, if at times, unglamorous mission.”

It recommends that the agency return to its “core mission of fostering true affirmative action by federal contractors and subcontractors”; and, “abandon its transformation to an opaque, plaintiff-style enforcement agency, purposefully hostile to the contracting community and singularly focused on issuing findings of discrimination, often where none exist.”

The OFCCP and the Department of Labor aren’t going to give up this power. The Trump administration should have ended the legal proceedings back in January of 2017. Since that didn’t happen, it’s up to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to play the starring role and end the suits now. He has every reason to stop the suits.

News service Axios reports that Facebook, Amazon, and Google “all view their roles similarly: to keep existing products working even amid new demand, provide accurate information and fight misinformation, and to help in the broader fight against the coronavirus.”

This is at a time when Americans are relying on these same companies for the delivery of products and technology for remote working and communications.

The U.S. government should be encouraging these companies to keep playing those roles. The government should stop pursuing frivolous legal action against them to allow them to focus on their important work. Our country cannot afford distractions.

I have a load of beefs with big tech, but right now, I say get out of their way.

Michael Daugherty is CEO of The Cyber Education Foundation and founder of The Justice Society. He is author of “The Devil Inside the Beltway: The Shocking Expose of the US Government’s Surveillance and Overreach Into Cyber-security, Medicine and Small Business.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.