After an at times testy and contentious confirmation proceeding, on July 18 the United States Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez as the new Secretary of Labor, replacing the departed Hilda Solis. Some Republican Congressmen had questioned Perez’s conduct in a qui tam action in Minnesota.  Mr. Perez’s Senate confirmation vote was the result of a “deal” in the Senate that also involved new nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Confirmed, Perez expressed willingness to listen to all sides and engage in “pragmatic problem-solving.” However, employers and advocates have expressed concern that the Perez administration will be even more “hard line” on employers than his predecessor’s, including increased insistence on liquidated damages under the FLSA to resolve audits; increased scrutiny of independent contractor classifications; and revisiting the so-called “Right to Know” regulations, which would require employers to analyze and report to employees their contractor status and possibly exemption status. Further, the employer community is concerned with DOL issuing final rules pertaining to persuader activity and the companionship exemption.

As with any change in regime of an administrative agency with enforcement powers such as DOL’s, employers must be attuned to the Department’s focus and style under Secretary Perez.