- The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (HELP) voted Wednesday to advance two of President Donald Trump's nominees for top labor posts, according to a statement by Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
- Nominees Cheryl Stanton, Trump's pick for administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and Janet Dhillon, who would fill one of three vacancies at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), are one step closer to being confirmed by the Senate. Trump has indicated Dhillon would become the EEOC's next chair, replacing its acting chair, Victoria A. Lipnic.
- But a full Senate vote for either nominee is unlikely to happen soon, Politico reports; HELP committee ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has indicated she intends to deny expedited confirmation unless Democrats' preferred nominees for EEOC and the National Labor Relations Board are also included. Alexander criticized the delay: "This is a problem not just for our Committee’s nominees — it is a problem for the entire Senate," he said.
The announcement that HELP nominees have advanced may be welcome news for employers, which are still waiting to see the impact that fully constituted federal agencies would have on regulation and enforcement.
Observers have wondered whether Stanton, in particular, will continue WHD's practice of issuing wage and hour opinion letters, which allow employers to ask the agency questions on a variety of topics ranging from overtime exemption to salary deductions for employee absences. Experts told HR Dive in 2018 that the letters have the potential to help employers with compliance, even if they're an imperfect solution. There's also speculation that Stanton's arrival may continue a pro-business shift at WHD.
Dhillon is due to fill the vacant spot left by former EEOC Chair Jenny Yang, whose term expired in 2017. The agency has been without a quorum since the departure of former Commisioner Chai Feldbum in January, leaving it unable to undertake rulemaking and affecting its caseload. Trump nominated Feldblum to another term but she withdrew following opposition from Senate Republicans, namely Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. Trump nominee Daniel Gade also withdrew his name from consideration following confirmation delays.
In an interview with HR Dive in January, Feldblum said she didn't expect EEOC's enforcement priorities to shift much after the end of her term, noting the bipartisan work she did with Lipnic. But she said its biggest problem is that it remains underfunded. "Without enough money, everyone loses: people with discrimination claims lose, and the employers who have charges brought against them lose, because things cannot move as quickly as they should," Feldblum said. "Both Democrats and Republicans at the commission would care about that, and I would hope members of Congress from both political parties would care."
In addition to Stanton and Dhillon, the HELP committee also advanced nominees for several other DOL positions, including commissioner of labor statistics,assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, and assistant secretary of labor for veterans’ employment and training.