Today, President Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to serve as the Secretary of Labor. Mr. Perez currently serves as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice, a position he has held since October 8, 2009.
Like many of President Obama’s other Labor nominees, Mr. Perez has spent his entire career in government service and academia. Prior to his service at Justice, Mr. Perez was a member of the Montgomery (MD) County Council and served as the Secretary of Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR). Among other things, DLLR enforces workplace safety laws and wage and hour laws.
Earlier in his career, he spent time as a federal prosecutor, and chaired the interagency Worker Exploitation Task Force, which oversaw a variety of initiatives designed to protect vulnerable workers. He served as Special Counsel to the late Senator Edward Kennedy. He also taught law at the University of Maryland and was a part-time professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health.
Given his background as a prosecutor, as well as in wage and hour law, the nomination of Mr. Perez sends a pretty clear message to the regulated community about the emphasis the Obama Administration intends to place on wage and hour enforcement in the second term. As we’ve noted previously, WHD has dramatically increased the number of investigative personnel around the country and has taken a more aggressive enforcement stand than it has in years past. Mr. Perez’s nomination would seem to indicate -- depending, of course, on the never-ending budget circus -- an intention to continue down that path.