Morgan Lewis Attorney Named Acting Head of Wage Hour Division

By Ben Penn, Bloomberg BNA, and Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg News

The Labor Department has installed Bryan Jarrett from management firm Morgan Lewis as acting administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, according to an internal DOL email obtained by Bloomberg News.

Jarrett, who practiced labor and employment law in Morgan Lewis’s Orange County, California, office, will remain at the WHD as deputy administrator following the confirmation of a permanent new division head, the email states.

The move allows for a GOP-appointed official to immediately preside over the critical agency, while President Donald Trump’s nominee for the post, Cheryl Stanton, awaits confirmation. Stanton’s committee hearing took place yesterday, but it could take months before she is advanced out of the panel and receives a vote from the full Senate.

Under Trump, the agency has been run by career leadership, even as significant policy shifts took place, such as a review of the Obama administration’s overtime and tip-sharing rules, and the withdrawal of guidance memos issued under prior WHD chief David Weil. Jarrett arrived to DOL on Monday.

A DOL spokeswoman confirmed to Bloomberg BNA that Jarrett has been named acting administrator. Jarrett’s LinkedIn profile states that he began serving as WHD deputy administrator in October.

Pattern of Hiring Management Lawyers

The hiring of Jarrett, who also used to work at large management firm Jones Day, follows a pattern of Trump administration WHD appointees who have a background representing employers in workplace lawsuits. Stanton spent nearly a decade at the national firm Ogletree Deakins, and Keith Sonderling, the recently appointed WHD senior policy adviser, came from the Gunster Law Firm in Florida.

“I am eager to get to know you and work with you all in our collective efforts to pursue our mission of promoting and achieving compliance,” Jarrett said in the staff email.

His message reflects a GOP tradition of focusing the WHD on partnering with employers to help them comply with the laws, rather than relying on aggressive, targeted investigations of alleged minimum wage and time-and-a-half overtime violations.

Jarrett earned a law degree from Stanford University in 2011 and clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

He enters a division that’s in the midst of reviewing whether to appeal a federal judge’s Aug. 31 decision to permanently shoot down a 2016 rule that would’ve expanded overtime access to an estimated 4.2 million workers. The agency recently collected public comments to inform a likely new regulation that would set a salary threshold for overtime exemption somewhere between the current level of $23,660 and the Obama rule’s level of $47,476.