The fast-food CEO whom Donald Trump tapped to run the Labor Department once hired an undocumented immigrant to work as a housekeeper, the nominee said Monday.
The revelation, which was first reported by the Huffington Post, is the latest development about Puzder, who has faced criticism over reports of wage violations at his restaurants, his views on the minimum wage and his use of ads that critics say are demeaning to women.
In a statement provided to The Washington Post by Puzder’s spokesman, Puzder said that he was unaware of the maid’s immigration status when he hired her. When he learned that she was not legally permitted to work in the United States, he “immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status,” he said. “We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the State of California and submitted all required paperwork,” he added.
According to the Huffington Post, the woman declined the offer for assistance out of concern that it would lead to her deportation.
It’s not clear how much damage the news may cause for Puzder, who is facing robust opposition from congressional Democrats and consumer groups who cite wage violations at the burger chain and stories from employees who allege they are sometimes asked to work through breaks or are not paid for overtime they’ve earned.
White House officials and Senate Republicans strongly refuted swirling rumors that Puzder is on the verge of withdrawing his nomination amid the latest revelations, plus the weeks it has taken for the federal ethics office to review his vast financial holdings. Puzder’s confirmation hearing has been postponed several times because of complications he’s faced separating himself from CKE Restaurants, the fast-food franchise that includes Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
“Andy Puzder has no intention of withdrawing. He’s looking forward to a successful hearing and being the next secretary of labor,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said Monday night, adding that she and other administration officials confer with him regularly about his pending nomination.
The Office of Government Ethics is still reviewing Puzder’s financial background, according to administration officials and Senate aides familiar with his nomination. The delays mean that a confirmation hearing for Puzder has yet to be scheduled, but Republicans are preparing to hold his hearing as early as next Tuesday, aides said.
The revelations come as the Senate is scheduled to confirm Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, on Tuesday. Republicans complained again Monday that Democrats are needlessly delaying the confirmation of Cabinet secretaries. As of Monday, just four of Trump’s Cabinet nominees have been confirmed, trailing far behind the pace of confirmations for George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s top picks at this point in their presidencies.
Puzder is not the only Cabinet nominee to have an issue related to a household employee. Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, disclosed during his confirmation hearing last month that he fired an undocumented houseworker who lied about her immigration status after she failed to provide the proper paperwork. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who was chosen to be the White House budget director, did not pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for one household worker, according to the New York Times.