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Management Lawyer Joins DOL as First Wage-Hour Political Hire

Sept. 18, 2017, 8:00 PM

By Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg News, and Ben Penn, Bloomberg BNA

Management-side attorney Keith Sonderling has joined the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division as a senior policy adviser, according to an e-mail sent to Department of Labor staff obtained by Bloomberg News.

Sonderling is the first political appointee for the agency, which regulates and enforces minimum wage and overtime rules. Prior to his appointment, he was practicing law as a shareholder in the Gunster Law Firm. According to a bio (since taken down) on the firm’s website, his practice focused on defending employers in labor and employment cases, and he also helped defrauded EB-5 immigration investors.

Sonderling “has extensive litigation experience with the FLSA, FMLA, and discrimination claims,” and had driven “through Irma” to get from Boca Raton, Fla., to Washington in time to start work, DOL Deputy Administrator Patricia Davidson said in an email to staff announcing his arrival.

A DOL spokeswoman confirmed Sonderling’s appointment to Bloomberg BNA.

The WHD has been operated by career officials since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The White House recently named a nominee for administrator of the division, South Carolina attorney Cheryl Stanton, but her confirmation could take months to proceed through the Senate. In the meantime, the agency has already begun the process of addressing new policy directions that stray from the Obama administration, most notably a potential new rule on overtime eligibility.

Sonderling was appointed in 2012 by Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott to the Fourth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission, and later became chair. He is listed as a board member of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce.

Sonderling is one of several attorneys with a background in defending employers whom the Trump Administration has tapped for positions enforcing labor and employment law.

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