OOC Hires Labor Lawyer Eveleth as General Counsel

Posted April 29, 2003 at 4:59pm

Filling a 4-month-old vacancy, the Office of Compliance announced Tuesday the appointment of an experienced labor and employment lawyer to fill the general counsel post, a position with significant influence over the enforcement of labor and safety laws on Capitol Hill.

Peter Eveleth will join the Office of Compliance in early June as the agency’s third general counsel. He comes to the position from the National Labor Relations Board, where he has served as the senior special counsel to the general counsel since 1994.

He was appointed by the Office of Compliance board of directors to a five-year nonrenewable term and replaces Gary Green, whose term expired in December.

“Peter Eveleth is a scrupulously fair, nonpartisan ‘lawyer’s lawyer,’” board Chairwoman Susan Robfogel said in a statement. “We at the Office of Compliance are excited to have an individual of Peter’s caliber as our next General Counsel and look forward to introducing Peter to Congress and the other agencies and employee organizations on Capitol Hill.”

In his capacity as senior special counsel at NLRB, Eveleth served as adviser for internal labor and employment-relations issues. He litigated before the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as in federal court. He also developed and implemented alternative dispute resolution practices at NLRB and served as the agency’s designated dispute resolution specialist.

Before his decade-long tenure at NLRB, Eveleth practiced labor and employment law at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Earlier in his career, he was the assistant general counsel for the NLRB’s Contempt Litigation Branch, which is responsible for assuring compliance with the agency’s court-enforced orders. He has also taught equal-employment opportunity law at Georgetown University’s School of Law.

Although he has spent his entire career in the executive branch and private practice, Eveleth described the importance he attributes to Congress as an institution.

“I’ve lived on Capitol Hill since 1956. Even though I have not worked on the Hill, it feels like my neighborhood in lots of different ways,” he said.

As for what drew him to the job, Eveleth said he sought a change from the federal agency: “I like the challenge of it. It’s a broader purview” than the NLRB. [IMGCAP(1)]

“There’s some challenges that I have discovered from talking to folks. I think it will be an interesting place to work. I admire the fact that Congress took the step of applying those laws to itself,” he added.

The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 applied federal workplace laws to Congress for the first time. It created the Office of Compliance as an independent office within the legislative branch to oversee and implement 11 health, labor and anti-discrimination laws.

The general counsel is charged with investigating violations of Occupational, Safety and Health Act regulations, the Americans With Disability Act and labor-management relations standards. The general counsel also represents the office in federal court.

In selecting a candidate, the board was careful to find someone who could navigate the sometimes difficult political waters that the general counsel’s office encounters, according to sources familiar with the process.

The general counsel is statutorily obliged to conduct inspections of legislative branch facilities at least once each Congress.

Last year the general counsel’s report focused on emergency preparedness and pointed to significant deficiencies in planning, including overcrowding in the Capitol, which the report said lacks adequate alarms and exits; improper storage of flammable materials; and blocked or nonexistent fire doors, among other serious OSHA violations.

Although the language was no more alarming than previous reports — which have detailed insufficient emergency planning and health hazards facing Congressional employees — a heightened security awareness created a quasi-frenzy following the report’s release. It was widely covered in the press and criticized by House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio).

“Though I have been concerned with some tactics used in the past by the Office of Compliance, particularly with regard to the necessary safeguarding of sensitive security information, I am committed to working together on the important and shared goal of improving safety at the Capitol complex,” Ney said in a statement.

Eveleth said he intends to approach the job with a tendency toward collaboration and resolution.

“I think I am a fairly straight shooter,” he said. “I think I have the skills not only to litigate but to resolve disputes. I am aware of how compliance works in the litigation process. What I have learned is that settlement is really worthwhile [to work] at early on. If you can resolve disputes at an early stage working with people, you avoid a lot of difficulty down the road.”