As we reported at the time, on December 8 President-Elect Trump announced that Andrew F. Puzder would be his nominee for Secretary of Labor. Mr. Puzder is Chief Executive Officer of CKE Restaurants, Inc., which operates the Carl’s Junior and Hardee’s fast food chains nationally. Democratic leadership in Congress has almost universally been critical of the choice.
With a background as a private and then corporate attorney and business executive, Mr. Puzder can be expected to bring change to the U.S. Department of Labor – and, possibly, radical change. The DOL under current Secretary Thomas Perez has not been particularly hospitable to employers, and often appeared to lack objectivity and even-handedness. Under a Puzder DOL, employers can expect less regulation, and even a rollback of many of the Executive Orders and regulatory initiatives issued during the Obama Administration. For example, the pending appeals in litigation over the recently-enjoined white-collar exemption regulations and the Persuader Rule could be dropped, leaving in place the lower-court decisions. (The overtime regulations have been preliminarily enjoined, and the Persuader Rule has been permanently enjoined.)
Mr. Puzder has expressed personal views (1) generally in favor of “legal immigration” and use of market forces instead of government regulation to deal with labor economics; and (2) generally critical of the current administration’s expansion of the overtime requirement, advocacy of large increases in the federal minimum wage (nonetheless, Mr. Puzder has expressed support for a $9 minimum wage, which is more than the current $7.25), and its attempt to expand the joint employer theory in order to deal with what the current leadership calls the “fissured” workplace.
Mr. Puzder has said that less regulation of employers will result in more jobs, benefitting employees and the unemployed, as well as employers. Whether that prediction holds true, it does seem that employers can look forward to a less adversarial regulatory climate in the next four years.