Caribbean roots inspire service to others

Photograph of Samantha Thomas outside wearing a dark, striped blazer.
Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas

I am Samantha Thomas, the daughter of immigrants that came to the United States from the Caribbean in the 1960s. My father hails from the beautiful island nation of Trinidad and Tobago and my mother from Carriacou, Grenada, in the Grenadine Islands.

My family has a legacy of service, and I follow in their footsteps today. My Grenadian great grandfather bravely served during World War II. My grandfather was an elementary school teacher in Carriacou. My parents instilled in me and my two sisters a core value system influenced by our rich Caribbean culture that underscored the importance of hard work, creativity and devotion to community. Those values have guided me throughout many life experiences.  

While studying international relations in college, I learned about labor exploitation and human trafficking. As the daughter of immigrants who came to this country for a better life and to work, I was outraged to learn that these dreams were used by others to exploit them. I vowed to be part of the change and decided to go to law school. My passion to protect the rights of workers ultimately led me to federal service when I joined the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor in 2010. I was proud to be appointed regional solicitor of labor in Philadelphia in May.

As regional solicitor for five mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, my vision is to steadfastly defend and uphold the rights of workers while also serving as a valuable resource for the community. Just this month, our attorneys secured a consent judgment that recovered $4.4 million in fringe benefits from a Maryland company that mismanaged the funds to cover employer expenses. Last summer, our attorneys’ hard-fought litigation against one of the world’s largest battery manufacturers resulted in a jury awarding $22 million in back wages for more than 7,500 workers – among the largest wage verdicts in the department’s history. Last year, our team secured over $30 million for workers. The work we do makes a real difference.

By enforcing labor laws to protect workers from exploitation and other harm, while emphasizing a workplace culture of diversity and inclusion, I hope to bring pride to my family’s inspirational legacy of service – and create more equitable workplaces for generations to come. I am excited to draw upon the teachings and principles of my Caribbean heritage and the longstanding tradition of service within my family as I lead our region in safeguarding and championing the rights of all workers in the United States.

Samantha Thomas is the regional solicitor of labor in Philadelphia.