Patrick Pizella, the man who’ll become acting Labor Secretary tomorrow, is “hard-working and no-nonsense” and will likely push for more employer-friendly safety standards, according to a former colleague.
Deputy U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) secretary since April 2018, Pizella will fill the vacancy left by the recent departure of Alexander Acosta, who resigned amid controversy over his role in a lenient 2008 plea deal with convicted sex offender – and billionaire – Jeffrey Epstein. Pizella held positions in several agencies during four different Administrations, including on the Federal Labor Relations Authority, to which he was appointed by President Barack Obama. According to the New York Times, he has a reputation for opposing both regulations and organized labor.
Ed Foulke of Fisher Phillips - – a firm specializing in labor and employment law – said Pizzella will likely push for a more employer-friendly safety standard and “will move the Trump administration’s USDOL agenda forward much faster than Secretary Acosta had.” That may include not increasing the penalty amounts for employers.
Former head of OSHA under George Bush (2006-2008), Foulke is familiar with the workplace safety responsibilities Pizella will be handling in his new role.
While Secretary Acosta did not prioritize compliance assistance and retained the same levels of enforcement focus seen during the days of the Obama administration, Foulke believes “Pizzella will encourage more partnerships and alliances with employers. He will likely encourage the Area Offices to increase the number of employers participating in the Voluntary Protections Programs – a program almost eliminated under the Obama administration and one that has been languishing under Secretary Acosta’s watch.”
Foulke also foresees changes in the way OSHA operates. “There are a number of directorate head positions currently staffed with acting leaders,” he says, “and Pizzella will likely push to get those slots filled. With his administrative experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if he also streamlines the agency.”