Senate HELP Should Reject Jessica Looman for WHD

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) has noticed a markup for Jessica Looman to be Wage and Hour Administrator this Wednesday, November 16th.

If confirmed, Looman’s ivory tower theories will threaten the business models that allow millions of Americans to put food on the table. Senate HELP Republicans should reject Looman’s nomination.   

A Senate HELP hearing on September 13th served to illuminate some of Looman’s more contentious positions regarding a range of issues from the joint-employer rule to the overtime rule.   

A key point of concern among market-oriented conservatives at the hearing was whether Looman would maintain David Weil’s – the Obama Administration’s radical administrator of WHD and failed Biden nominee for the same role – determination that the WHD would only have to prove that parties exhibited indirect control over employees to classify them as employers under the joint employer rule.  

When questioned about whether she would uphold Dr. Weil’s dubious contention, Looman made no effort to indicate that she would contradict Weil’s position. Instead, Looman went so far as to state that the WHD “uses many tools to provide necessary compliance assistance to employers and workers to ensure they understand their rights” and that “determining whether a joint employment relationship exists is a fact specific inquiry that requires examining all the relevant facts in a particular case.” 

Furthermore, rather than address concerns raised by Senator Burr (R-N.C.) that the indirect control standard adopted by Dr. Weil destroys “any distinction between an employee and an independent contractor,” Looman obfuscated her response towards the discussions of labor misclassifications.  

Moreover, Looman supported the “rescinding” of the Trump-era joint employer rule which had, according to Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.), permitted the franchising business model and other forms of ever more prevalent contracting arrangements to “account for 775,000 business locations and support over 8 million jobs and 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)”.  

When prompted to provide her thoughts on the Trump era overtime rule which had “by raising the salary level for overtime eligibility to $684 a week from $455 a week, expanded overtime eligibility for 1.3 million additional employees,” Looman, once again, redirected the discussion towards the larger idea of an overtime rule as opposed to her thoughts on the Trump era rule itself.   

When asked if she supported the Obama era overtime rule, Looman affirmed that “the Department committed in its last rulemaking to update the [overtime rule income] threshold more regularly” and that “the Department continues to consider the appropriate threshold and whether any other changes to the regulation should be proposed.” By, once again, providing such a non-substantive response, Looman is substantiating concerns that she is concealing her views for the sake of maintaining a veil of non-partisanship.  

In summary, Jessica Looman’s troublesome positions on the joint employment and overtime rules should disqualify her from being the administrator of the WHD of the DOL. If confirmed, Looman’s radical and uninformed positions on these issues will have disastrous consequences for American workers in the midst of an economic downturn.