Bloomberg Law
Aug. 13, 2018, 12:00 PM

Religious Freedom Advocate Is New Wage Hour Division Adviser

Ben Penn
Ben Penn

The Labor Department appointed Steven Begakis, a recent law school graduate with an interest in natural law and religious liberty, as a Wage and Hour Division policy adviser, a DOL official confirmed to Bloomberg Law.

Begakis becomes the third political appointee thus far in the Trump White House at the DOL agency responsible for enforcing and regulating federal minimum wage, overtime, and family leave laws. He reported for duty last week, according to the official.

Begakis joins the WHD as it works through multiple concurrent regulatory and policy priorities in the queue even before the Senate confirmation of the agency’s top official. The division is in the midst of writing a new rule to update workers’ eligibility for time-and-a-half overtime pay, along with three other regulations on the agenda. The WHD has also rolled out initiatives to encourage employers to self-report past violations and to respond to management requests for opinion letters that provide legal clarity.

The 2016 Notre Dame Law School graduate has a LinkedIn profile listing affiliations with a range of conservative legal groups, such as the Federalist Society, the Claremont Institute, and the Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF is a Christian nonprofit known for defending businesses accused of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

In 2013, Begakis wrote a column in a Notre Dame student newspaper rejecting the notion that America is a free society. “Free, unless you’re an entrepreneur trying to start a business. Unless you’re a Christian photographer who objects to taking pictures of a gay wedding. Unless you’re a Catholic business owner who refuses to pay for your employee’s abortion procedures,” the new WHD adviser wrote.

At the division, Begakis wouldn’t have jurisdiction over bias investigations. He would help oversee an agency that’s expected to eventually issue new enforcement guidelines that are more focused on aiding employers in complying with the law. The division has already started to shift emphasis away from targeted, data-driven investigations alleging businesses have shorted workers on pay.

The hiring move comes as the DOL’s federal contracting office recently announced that is plans to expand religious liberty protections for businesses in discrimination probes.

Bryan Jarrett is currently running the Wage and Hour Division on an acting basis. President Donald Trump’s nominee for the post, South Carolina attorney Cheryl Stanton has been waiting nearly a year for the Senate to take up her nomination. Jarrett, who was originally slated to remain at WHD as Stanton’s No. 2, recently became the White House nominee to head the DOL policy office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at