President Barack Obama has nominated Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who has led agency's Civil Rights Division since 2009, to serve as the next secretary of U.S. Department of Labor.
At a White House event Monday, Obama touted Perez and the work he did at DOJ, urging the Senate to confirm him as quickly as possible.
"In his current role as the head of the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Tom has fought to open pathways into the workforce for everyone willing to contribute, including people with disabilities, LGBT Americans, and immigrants," Obama said. "Now, while he's tackled plenty of tough issues, Tom has also spent a career as a consensus-builder."
In brief remarks, Perez built on the theme of the necessity of consensus.
"As you well know, our nation still faces critical economic challenges, and the Department's mission is as important as ever," Perez said. "I am confident that together with our partners in organized labor, the business community, grassroots communities, Republicans, Democrats and independents alike, we can keep making progress for all working families."
Under Perez's watch, the Civil Rights Division took aim at lending intuitions and settled its three largest fair lending cases ever. They included the $355 million paid by Bank of America Corp. to resolve allegations that Countrywide Financial, one of the bank's units, systematically discriminated against qualified black and Hispanic borrowers.
In May 2012, SunTrust Mortgage Inc. agreed to a $21 million settlement related to allegations of discrimination that occurred between 2005 and 2009, which affected more than 20,000 black and Hispanic borrowers.
The DOJ unit was involved in several other types of high-profile matters during Perez's reign. In May 2012, DOJ sued Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joseph Arpaio for alleged discriminatory law enforcement actions toward Latinos. A year before, the division intervened on behalf of a Sikh inmate in California whose right to practice religion was allegedly violated when he was punished for refusing to cut his hair and beard.
By several metrics, the Civil Rights Division has been resurgent since Perez took over.
From January 2009 to May 2011, more than a dozen attorneys who left the division during the George W. Bush administration returned to the division. It showed that the department was refilling its ranks with lawyers, many of whom had experience working for civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.