Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Advanced Search Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Senate Move Could Kickstart Stalled Labor Nominations (Corrected)

April 10, 2019, 6:37 PM

President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Labor Department’s division tasked with enforcing wage law violations has finally been confirmed after nearly a two-year long wait.

Her confirmation April 10 is likely to open the floodgates for a handful of other political appointees still waiting to join the Labor Department.

Cheryl Stanton, the former head of the South Carolina state employment agency, has been waiting to take over the Wage and Hour Division since she was nominated in September 2017. Among her first tasks will be to help shape a new proposal on worker overtime pay requirements.

She’s among a first wave of Trump’s judges and agency nominees considered or poised to be confirmed this week under a new Senate precedent that truncates the debate time required before a final vote on the full Senate floor.

Senate Republican leaders have touted the move as a means to chip away at more than 100 agency nominees awaiting confirmation, slowed by the 30 hours of floor debate usually required before a final vote. Some Democrats, however, have criticized the change as a means to rush through controversial nominees, including judges up for a lifetime appointment.

The new Senate precedent sets a limit of two hours of debate for certain agency leadership designates. The move could be especially useful for the DOL, which has faced some of the lowest confirmation rates in the Trump administration.

Business advocates laud the Senate change as a win.

Acting directors at agencies “have been doing a good job, but in terms of having policy leadership that’s when you need to have someone there from the Senate confirmed. That adds a certain element,” said Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s employment policy division. “It’s important from a manpower perspective, but also from a leadership perspective too.”

Senate leadership hasn’t specified where it will focus in terms of prioritizing agency confirmations. Other DOL nominees awaiting confirmation include Scott Mugno to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, John Pallasch for assistant labor secretary for employment and training, and John Lowry III, designated to lead the DOL’s Veterans Employment and Training Service.

EEOC Quorum Woes

The Senate also reduced debate times for nominees for the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The EEOC has been operating without a quorum on its five-member panel since the start of the year.

“It’s only right to the nominees whose lives have been in hold for so long,” said Michael Lotito, a management lobbyist who runs Littler Mendelson’s Workplace Policy Institute. “At some point they may become discouraged setting off a new round of searching and background checks and hearings and votes which may mean the positions are never filled.”

As for the DOL, Stanton’s arrival comes as the agency has tackled high-profile rulemaking with just acting administrators filling in for more permanent leadership.

Since February, the agency has published proposals on joint employer liability, overtime pay eligibility, and changes to what employee perks can be included in a worker’s regular rate of pay.

“With rulemaking at DOL proceeding at rapid pace, having key folks like Ms. Stanton in place is helpful to rule making process,” Lotito said.

The department is hustling to get those regulations finished before the 2020 election so that they would be harder to undo if a Democrat wins the White House.

Stanton to Join Ahead of Hearings

Stanton will still have a rocky road ahead.

The DOL’s different rule proposals are still not finalized and are likely to face litigation before they reach that stage. Add to her plate inquiries being made by the DOL’s Office of the Inspector General and by congressional Democrats into the agency’s rulemaking process.

DOL Inspector General Scott Dahl is still in the middle of an audit of the agency’s handling of a regulation concerning tipped workers. The same proposal, which was scrapped after a public outcry, will likely be a subject a congressional hearing sometime in the future.

It’s expected that Stanton and other senior administration officials will be summoned to Congress to answer questions on this and other rulemaking issues.

That would prove beneficial, especially if groups challenge the final overtime rule, Spencer said.

“You’re entering the comment period and how you should respond to the comments and that has to be done thoughtfully so you don’t open to litigation challenges,” Spencer said. “No matter how well they do this there will be some litigation. It’s important having that confirmed political leadership on board once it gets past that comment and the inevitable litigation stage.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at; Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at; Cynthia Harasty at