Since the election, employers have wondered what to expect from Donald Trump, particularly with significant changes like the new overtime rule that is now sitting in limbo. On December 8, 2016, Donald Trump named Andrew Puzder as his planned nominee for Secretary of Labor. So, what does that mean?
In many ways, Puzder fits what one might expect as a Trump nominee. Puzder is a business man. He has served as CEO of CKE Restaurants (the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr) since 2000. Before that he served as the company’s General Counsel. Puzder’s track to CKE is somewhat interesting. He practiced law as a commercial trial lawyer in St. Louis from 1978 through 1991, where he met Carl Karcher, the founder of CKE. At the time, Karcher was experiencing significant financial issues and asked Puzder to be his personal attorney. Puzder is credited with resolving these issues and allowing Karcher to retain a significant ownership interest in the company while also avoiding bankruptcy. Puzder was named Executive Vice President and General Counsel for CKE in 1997, and CEO in 2000. He is credited with turning around CKE.
Puzder has consistently voiced opposition to what he has called “overregulation” and the “regulatory burdens” of the Obama administration. For example, in writing on his blog about a recent speech, Puzder stated that President-elect Trump’s win can help change “the impact of overregulation on the restaurant industry, jobs, and the economy . . .” He further wrote that “[i]n order to lower the burdens businesses face and to create strong economic growth, we need a new set of policies.” Puzder specifically attacked “Obamacare” for its “increased labor costs for businesses.”
Puzder has also opposed an increased minimum wage specifically, as well as the new overtime rule which more than doubled the salary level required to meet the FLSA’s executive, administrative, and professional exemption. In fact, on May 18, 2016, the day that the overtime rule was released, Puzder wrote an opinion in Forbes voicing his opposition. “This new rule will simply add to the extensive regulatory maze the Obama Administration has imposed on employers, forcing many to offset increased labor expense by cutting costs elsewhere. In practice, this means reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions.”
I personally saw Puzder speak in May 2014 at the DRI Retail and Hospitality Litigation and Claims Management Seminar. He spoke passionately about his frustrations over the regulation imposed by the Obama Administration. His passion on the topic seemed to catch many in the audience off-guard. Little did I know the man on stage would later be nominated as Secretary of Labor. With Puzder at the helm of the DOL, employers can expect a much more pro-employer approach and that Puzder will work towards reducing the compliance costs incurred by employers.
 Andrew Puzder, “The Harsh Reality of Regulating Overtime Pay,” (May 18, 2016) (available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/05/18/the-harsh-reality-of-regulating-overtime-pay/#415bd30b2321).