Andrew Puzder Withdrew as Nominee for Labor Secretary – But Why?

A new Administration always means a new Cabinet. As employment lawyers, the choice we are most interested in is the President’s nominee of Secretary of the Department of Labor. Until yesterday, that was Andrew Puzder. He’s a former corporate attorney, but most people associate him with his role as the president and CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., the company which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains.

Because he is often credited with saving those franchises, Mr. Puzder had a number of supporters who think he will be the ideal Labor Secretary. But there are some actions and stances he has taken that gave rise to intense scrutiny and criticism from both sides of Congress. As the New York Times explains in detail, that included:

  • “Criticized paid sick leave policies of the sort recently enacted for federal contractors.”
  • Argued against the expansion of overtime pay eligibility.
  • Argued against raising the minimum wage.
  • Praised automated service products because, in his words, the machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
  • Argued for the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, which directly affects business with enough employees to require they offer health insurance.
  • Been plagued “by stories from workers for CKE’s primarily franchised fast-food restaurants who have come forward in recent weeks to complain about wage theft and other labor conditions,” as per Reuters.
  • Not divested any of his company holdings because CKE Restaurants is privately owned, which could lead to a “possible conflict of interest with regulating an investment Puzder might hold, such as interest in a fast-food enterprise with thousands of employees,” as per CBS News.
  • Been fervently opposed by labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, for his “vehement opposition to a recent National Labor Relations Board decision that would make it harder for corporations to manipulate the system and avoid bargaining with employees over improvements in the workplace by hiring temporary workers or contract workers.”

There was also a lingering concern, though it is often discussed as an afterthought by journalists, about the overtly sexual nature of CKE’s ad campaigns. While there is nothing illegal about running advertisements of “beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis,” as Puzder puts it, one may wonder how reflective this marketing strategy is of the company’s treatment of women. This is in conjunction with a recent survey conducted by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United which, as reported by Salon.com, shows “A whopping 66 percent of female CKE workers ROC surveyed had faced sexual harassment. Harassment came from supervisors, co-workers or — most often — customers, and took the form of sexual comments, groping, unwanted sexual texts and pressure for dates.”

Most employee rights advocates believe his withdrawal was merited.

The Gilbert Firm has always advocated on behalf of Tennessee workers whose rights have been violated, and we will continue to do so no matter who is confirmed in this position. If you have been denied equal pay, have been the victim of sexual harassment, have been denied your rightful overtime, or have been hurt by your employer, you do have legal options. We invite you to contact Michael Russell or any of our Tennessee wage and hour attorneys to find out more about our services and our experiences. Please call 888.996.9731 or fill out this contact form to schedule a consultation time at one of our offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Jackson or Knoxville.