President Obama withdrew the nomination of Leon Rodriguez to be Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor on Aug. 2. Rodriguez was nominated on Dec. 2, 2010, and his nomination has been in limbo ever since.
Rodriguez’s nomination was considered by some to be controversial due to his record in his current position as deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as in his prior work.
The post of WHD Administrator has been vacant during Obama’s entire term. The post’s duties have been taken on by WHD Deputy Administrator Nancy J. Leppink.
The apparent leadership void at WHD “hasn’t stopped DOL from aggressively enforcing employment laws,” including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, noted Shlomo D. Katz, Esq., counsel at the law firm Brown Rudnick LLP. But he wondered if WHD’s apparent reluctance, since June 2010, to issue guidance on how to interpret specific employment laws was related to the empty leadership chair. The last, and only the second, WHD Administrator Interpretation was issued in June 2010, after WHD announced in March 2010 that the AI’s predecessor, the WHD opinion letter, had been eliminated in favor of the AIs. The AIs provide industrywide guidance, instead of public guidance to particular employers about specific questions of interpretation, as the opinion letters had done.
Obama’s bad luck with WHD administrator nominees began with his first nominee, Lorelei Boylan, who withdrew after six months waiting to hear from the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to call her before them for a nomination hearing. The committee never did. Her nomination was blemished by her involvement with New York Wage Watch, a New York state program launched by M. Patricia Smith, now Obama’s Solicitor of Labor.
Rodriguez never got a hearing call from the committee either.