Puzder hearing set for January, Dems defend overtime rules

The Senate has scheduled a January confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor.

Trump’s nomination of Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, was the death knell for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations, according to John Husband, a partner at Holland & Hart in Denver and an editor of Colorado Employment Law Letter.

It already was expected that the Trump DOL would withdraw the department’s appeal of an injunction blocking the rules, but Puzder’s nomination solidified that prediction, Husband previously said.

In a recent webinar, Leslie E. Silverman, a shareholder with Fortney & Scott, LLC, and a contributor to Federal Employment Law Insider, said that if lawmakers vote down party lines, Republicans have enough votes to confirm Puzder easily.

And they may try to do so quickly. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in a statement that he met with Puzder and was impressed by him. “Mr. Puzder will be a good partner in creating an environment to help grow jobs for American workers,” Alexander said in the statement. “The Senate labor committee will promptly consider his nomination in the next Congress.” The committee said it will hold a hearing in January.

However, on December 22, the committee’s ranking member, Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), said she has serious questions about Puzder’s ability to lead the DOL—specifically citing his opposition to the overtime rules. Murray called for a “vigorous and thorough” confirmation hearing.

Overtime rules update

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and 25 other members of Congress have urged the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court’s injunction halting the overtime rules.

The lower court erred in enjoining the rules, the lawmakers said in a brief. It contradicted 5th Circuit precedent allowing for a salary threshold, they argue.

The appeals court agreed to expedite the DOL’s appeal and set a deadline of January 31, 2017, for final briefs. That still puts the court’s decision after the inauguration, making it possible for Trump’s DOL to withdraw the appeal.

Days before the lawmakers filed the brief, a group of labor organizations asked to join the suit to take over defending the rules if Trump’s DOL backs out. The DOL has asked the lower court to hold off on making the injunction permanent until the 5th Circuit can review its appeal.