Trumpdate: What do you think about Andrew Puzder and his "scandals"?

Puzder.flickrCC.GageSkidmore 2
Andrew Puzder

The confirmation hearing for Andrew Puzder, President Trump's nominee for Secretary of Labor, is supposed to take place tomorrow. While we wait to see what happens, I thought it might be fun to open a comment thread so we can opine about the issues that have been raised against him. Do you think they're legitimate? Do you think he's a good choice for Secretary of Labor, or a bad choice? Please weigh in. I'll get things started:

No. 1: As most people know, Mr. Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., which is the franchisor for Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food restaurants. Do you think the U.S. Secretary of Labor should come from an industry that he will be regulating?

ROBIN'S TWO CENTS: Generally, this doesn't bother me. I don't have a problem with someone with a business background serving as Secretary of Labor. I do think that he should recuse himself from any matters related to CKE companies, though. My understanding is that the plan that was approved by the Office of Government Ethics does not say he has to recuse himself from these matters, but Mr. Puzder has indicated that he might do so voluntarily. I think he should.

No. 2: Mr. Puzder's ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, went on Oprah in 1990, wearing a wig and sunglasses, and said that Mr. Puzder physically abused her during their marriage. Not long afterward, they reached an agreement that included child custody provisions, and Ms. Fierstein recanted her allegations. Since Mr. Puzder's nomination, she has submitted a letter to Congress recanting (again) and saying that she regrets having appeared on Oprah's show. However, many Democrats (and maybe a few Republicans) believe that these allegations of spousal abuse should disqualify Mr. Puzder. Do you agree?

ROBIN'S TWO CENTS: I don't see how this can be used to disqualify Mr. Puzder. It's possible that Ms. Fierstein made false allegations in an attempt to get a more favorable divorce settlement. It's also possible that she told the truth in 1990, and that she backed down to get a better settlement, retain custody of her children, or both. We will probably never know what really happened, but because she has recanted twice now - including before Congress - essentially saying that she lied on Oprah, I think we have to give Mr. Puzder the benefit of the doubt.

No. 3: Carl's Jr. has commercials featuring scantily-clad women eating Carl's Jr. burgers in very sexually suggestive ways. Here is one of the "cleaner" ones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvEnVY99DUE

(Posted for educational purposes only!) Does this make Mr. Puzder unqualified to be the ultimate authority (short of President Trump) over an agency like the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces sex discrimination/harassment laws as they apply to federal contractors?

ROBIN'S TWO CENTS: Probably not, even though this type of commercial is not my cup of tea. (DISCLAIMER: I do not live in a part of the country that has Carl's Jr. restaurants, and I don't watch a lot of TV anyway, so I have seen these commercials only a few times on the internet. Maybe they would bug me more if I had to watch them all the time. I do think the burgers look exquisite, so that might be causing me to lean in Mr. Puzder's direction.)

No. 4: Mr. Puzder reportedly had a household worker who was undocumented. After his nomination, he learned that she was undocumented, and he terminated her employment, paid all back taxes due, and is working to help her gain legal status in the United States. Does this disqualify Mr. Puzder?

ROBIN'S TWO CENTS: Ehhhh . . . not cool, but these things happen. I don't know how carefully individuals "vet" individual household workers whom they employ. Maybe they should do more. Because it was (a) only one (b) household employee, I'm not sure it's truly "disqualifying." I realize that nominees and potential nominees have been disqualified for this type of thing in the past, but that always seemed a little harsh to me, too.

No. 5: What about all these lawsuits filed recently against Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants? Isn't that a concern?

ROBIN'S TWO CENTS: Not really. First, I think it's possible that a lot of the lawsuits and charges are politically motivated, and were filed in an attempt to taint Mr. Puzder. Second, the employers in these cases are the franchisees, not CKE, Inc. If discrimination/wage-hour violations/etc. are going on, then that is the legal responsibility of the franchisees. (Courts may or may not agree with me on that point.)

All right - you have my two cents. Now give us yours. Weigh in today, and tune in for the confirmation hearing tomorrow!

Still image of Andrew Puzder from flickr, Creative Commons license, by Gage Skidmore.

Robin Shea has more than 20 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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