Andrew F. Puzder, who rose to prominence as a fast food executive, recently withdrew from consideration to be President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor. Puzder had been the subject of a great deal of debate and scorn since his announcement in December, particularly among progressive groups and labor unions. After records of spousal abuse from his 1988 divorce surfaced, Republican U.S. senators began to turn on him, as well.
To replace Puzder, President Trump appointed Alexander Acosta, currently the dean of Florida International University’s College of Law.
Before the 48-year-old Acosta came to FIU, he served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. While at the university, he helped establish a J.M. degree program in banking compliance, BSA and anti-money laundering. FIU’s law graduates ranked first among Florida’s 11 law schools three years in a row in terms of passage rate of the Florida bar (July 2015, February 2016 and July 2016).
Acosta’s most relevant experience to the position was the time he served on the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003, under President George W. Bush. Bush then appointed Acosta to be assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
What to expect from the Acosta selection
With Acosta looking like a sure bet to be approved for the position, what should employers and employees alike expect?
BoltNagi’s Managing Attorney Tom Bolt served on a American Bar Association Board with Acosta and noted that he should prove to be an advocate for anti-discrimination laws. When he testified in front of Congress in 2011 regarding the civil rights of Muslims in America, Acosta argued vehemently that they should be treated and viewed just as any other American. “Alex is a remarkably balanced leader who is capable of examining issues in detail without micromanaging the people underneath him.” Bolt noted.
There are a couple issues that are likely to come up during confirmation hearings. In 2008, Acosta was investigated by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, who was looking into whether certain hiring practices or case assignments in Acosta’s civil rights division were politically motivated. One report indicated Acosta ignored some warning signs about those problems in the department.
In 2004, Acosta received criticism for justifying “vote caging,” in which Ohio citizens challenged whether black voters were eligible to vote. Some saw this as a strategy to disenfranchise minorities.
However, both these issues have already come up in previous analyses of Acosta and are unlikely to overrule what appears to be general bipartisan support for his appointment.
It is important for businesses in the U.S. Virgin Islands to be aware of their obligations under federal and territorial labor laws. For guidance and advice you need, meet with a dedicated employment law attorney.
BoltNagi is a widely respected and well-established labor law firm serving employers throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.