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Labor Department Official Opts for California Over Confirmation

Dec. 31, 2018, 11:05 AM

A key Labor Department official and the face of an effort to expand overtime pay requirements is leaving the agency and withdrawing his name from consideration for another post.

Bryan Jarrett, the department’s acting wage and hour administrator and President Donald Trump’s pick to run the DOL’s policy shop, will resign at the end of the week. Jarrett said in an email to colleagues in the Wage and Hour Division that he recently accepted a job in California.

“I am honored to have worked in such an excellent organization,” Jarrett said in the email.

The move comes as the Labor Department is still grappling with the biggest policy question facing Secretary Alexander Acosta when he took control in 2017: what to do about overtime. The DOL has largely abandoned an Obama-era proposal blocked by a federal court that would have made some 4 million workers newly eligible for overtime pay. But it’s yet to offer what’s expected to be a more moderate alternative approach.

Labor Department spokeswoman Megan Sweeney confirmed that Jarrett is leaving the department.

Jarrett, at least officially, played a lead role in the overtime initiative. He also was involved in the effort to update “joint employer” liability for franchise and other businesses, a yet-to-be released proposal that was slated for December.

The DOL has put a business-friendly face on minimum wage and overtime enforcement under Acosta, focusing on helping companies understand their legal responsibilities. It also recovered an estimated record $304 million owed to workers for wage-and-hour violations, according to the department.

Still Waiting on Leadership

The Wage and Hour Division, which is tasked with enforcing minimum wage and overtime laws, has not had a Senate-confirmed leader in the Trump administration’s first two years. South Carolina lawyer Cheryl Stanton is still waiting for Senate confirmation.

A rumored deal to waive precious Senate floor voting time requirements for Stanton and other pending Labor Department nominees appears to have gone by the wayside. That means Trump will have to renominate his picks for open administration posts after a new Congress is seated Jan. 3.

Jarrett, a former management-side lawyer at Morgan Lewis in Southern California, joined the department in October 2017 and was tapped to fill the WHD role on an acting basis in October 2017. President Trump nominated him for the Labor Department’s assistant secretary for policy last July.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and other Democrats have peppered Jarrett with inquiries about a proposed tip-sharing rule made public after the department scrubbed data showing it would allow businesses to skim hundreds of millions of dollars in gratuities from their workers. He also bore the brunt of questioning about a DOL initiative that allows businesses to self-report wage and hour violations.

His decision to hit the road comes days after military veteran Daniel Gade told Bloomberg Law he withdrew his name from consideration for an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seat because it was clear that the Senate was at an impasse on EEOC nominations.

Jarrett remains listed as the WHD acting administrator and deputy administrator on the Labor Department’s website. His exit leaves Deputy Administrator for Program Operations Patricia Davidson as the WHD’s top ranking official. Davidson is a career employee.

Fellow Morgan Lewis alum Jonathan Berry is the department’s acting assistant secretary for policy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com