In a move surprising to the employment community, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has submitted her resignation to President Obama, creating a vacancy at the Department of Labor’s highest post and removing from the new administration one of its highest-ranking minority officials. In a lengthy email to staff, Secretary Solis explained that “After much discussion with family and close friends, I have decided to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life.” This language from the former California congresswoman prompted immediate speculation that Ms. Solis will return to the political arena in her home state.
Solis’ tenure as Secretary was, unsurprisingly, colored by her prior background as a labor advocate, including what many in the business community viewed as a focus on stern enforcement rather than cooperation, to the detriment of both businesses and workers. Jackson Lewis partner Paul DeCamp, former Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, remarked on Solis’ tenure: “Secretary Solis will be remembered for her vigorous advocacy for workers’ rights, though doubts remain regarding whether her efforts were effective.”
Attention will now turn once again to the President, who will send a signal to the employer community with his selection of a new Secretary. The loss of the sole Latino member of the Cabinet likely will also add to the criticism the President is receiving regarding the lack of diversity within his cabinet.