Late last week, R. Alexander Acosta was confirmed by the Senate to become our nation’s 27th Secretary of Labor. Acosta is the final member of President Trump’s cabinet to be confirmed.
The son of Cuban refugees, Acosta has impressive credentials and a long record in public service. He earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University. Upon graduation from law school, Acosta clerked for Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 2002, he was appointed to the National Labor Relations Board where he participated in or drafted over 125 opinions. He then served as chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and was later appointed as the U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of Florida. Most recently, Acosta was dean of Florida International University’s College of Law.
Mr. Acosta’s confirmation was never really in question. In addition to the fact that he was confirmed three times prior by the Senate during the Bush Administration, Acosta’s personal and professional record is far more palatable to business and some labor unions than was President Trump’s first nominee for the position, Andrew Pudzer. Pudzer withdrew his nomination when support in the Senate wavered after criticism of his past labor practices as a fast-food CEO and allegations of domestic abuse surfaced.
So, what can employers and their employees expect from the Department of Labor under Secretary Acosta’s direction? Good question. During his confirmation hearings, Acosta made clear that he will largely defer to President Trump’s agenda although upon closer examination, some of their views may be at odds. For example, President Trump has issued executive orders to reduce regulations and rule-making by agencies. However, in an article Acosta wrote for the Florida International University Law Review, Acosta advocated for just the opposite. Specifically, Acosta shared his belief that rulemaking is a “better, more democratic, more stable, more transparent, and more modern path for quasi-legislative enactments.”
With important rules in question, such as the FLSA overtime exemption rule, and the future enforcement effort of other rules unclear, such as the fiduciary rule, we should know very soon the direction Secretary Acosta and the Department of Labor will take over the next four years.