The Senate on Thursday confirmed Alexander Acosta as the new Department of Labor Secretary. Here are five things to know.
He’s a government veteran. Acosta was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Labor Relations Board in 2002. After that, he served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. More recently, he was the U.S. attorney for Southern District of Florida.
He specialized in employment issues. Acosta has worked with labor issues before in the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he specialized in employment and labor issues. He also taught classes on employment law, disability-based discrimination law and civil rights law at the George Mason University School of Law.
He plans to review the fiduciary rule. Last month, Acosta said if he was confirmed, he would abide by President Trump’s directive that calls for a review of the fiduciary rule, which demands that advisers act in the best interests of their clients, and to put their clients’ interests above their own.
“The executive action, as I recall, directs the secretary of labor and the Department of Labor to repeal or revise the fiduciary rule if any of the criteria laid out in that executive order are found. And so that criteria really regulates and determines the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule,” Acosta said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Acosta has not said whether he supports the rule or not.
He will likely review the overtime rule. President Barack Obama’s overtime rule also was brought up during the confirmation hearing. While Acosta didn’t say which way he was leaning on the pending litigation, he did indicate that the DOL will review and possibly revise the rule.
The regulation — which was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, 2016, and would have doubled the Fair Labor Standards Act’s salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 — was halted in November.
Acosta acknowledged that overtime rules have not been updated since 2004 to reflect cost-of-living increases but also expressed concerns that doubling the salary level test would “stress” the economy.
He has the support of employer groups. Employer groups, including the Society for Human Resource Management, applauded Trump’s DOL pick when he was nominated.
“Alexander Acosta would bring to the role of Labor secretary experience as a member of the National Labor Relations Board and as assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. With those experiences comes an important understanding of labor relations and civil rights. Because labor relations and civil rights are issues addressed by HR professionals in the workplace, SHRM welcomes Acosta’s nomination,” the group said in a statement.
“Day in, day out, HR professionals deal with workplace issues influenced by regulation and legislation. As a result, SHRM — as HR’s primary representative — will continue to offer HR’s important perspective as Congress takes up Acosta’s nomination and the Trump administration responds to workplace issues.”
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