Update, Sept. 5, 2017: President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he is nominating Cheryl Stanton to be administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
President Donald Trump reportedly wants Cheryl Stanton to lead the agency that enforces federal wage and overtime laws, holding employers accountable when they cheat workers.
But records show Stanton has had her own problems paying people who work for her. Currently head of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, Stanton was named last year in a lawsuit alleging she failed to pay her house cleaners.
Laurie Titus of Sunflower Cleaning Group stated in her suit that Stanton failed to pay for four house cleaning visits, at $90 each.
“I have emailed, mailed, and certified mailed trying to get payment,” the lawsuit said.
Shortly after filing suit, Titus notified the court that Stanton finally had paid the company. Reached by phone, Titus said she didn’t want to comment on former clients.
Bloomberg BNA, a news organization for legal and business professionals, reported last month that Stanton was expected to be named chief of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, though Trump has not yet nominated her officially. Her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Stanton, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the nomination, the lawsuit or criticisms of her leadership of the South Carolina agency.
“Director Stanton focuses her efforts on running the agency and, unfortunately, is unavailable to accept your interview invitation,” spokesman Bob Bouyea wrote by email.
“But if you want to know what goes on every day at this agency under Director Stanton’s leadership it is this: the agency is helping families make ends meet when someone loses a job due to no fault of their own, and is helping people take advantage of opportunities created by the state’s robust economy by preparing them for employment and then helping them find employment.”
The Labor Department and White House didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Trump administration already has shown a less aggressive, more pro-employer approach to wage enforcement, from employer liability to overtime pay.
Stanton served in the George W. Bush administration as the White House’s principal legal liaison to the Labor Department. She spent years defending companies in labor cases and once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. She currently serves on the board of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, now Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, appointed Stanton to lead the state’s “business-friendly” workforce agency in 2013, calling her “a rock star” and “one of the finest employment lawyers in the country.”
Unlike the federal agency Stanton would lead, the South Carolina department doesn’t handle wage enforcement. Rather, it doles out unemployment insurance and helps people find jobs.
While there, Stanton has faced questions about her management.
“In all my years as a manager, I’ve never been spoken to by a supervisor in such a confrontational and abrasive manner as you have done in our last two meetings,” former Assistant Executive Director Bill Beckham wrote in an April 2016 resignation letter.
Beckham, who reported directly to Stanton as the agency’s director of organizational integrity, wrote that she directed him to “institute some type of personnel action” against an employee who didn’t deserve it.
“I respect your authority, but I can’t in good conscience comply with an order I consider to be morally and ethically wrong,” Beckham wrote. “It’s apparent that my concerns mean nothing and any issues I’ve raised have been summarily dismissed.”
Beckham, now retired, declined to comment.
Alex Bastani, president of the union that represents Labor Department employees in Washington, D.C., said the letter “gives me pause.”
“If someone’s going to be disrespectful not just to individuals, but to the process, that obviously gives me great concern,” he said.
Beckham was one of several senior officials who left the agency under Stanton. At a legislative hearing in May, Republican state Sen. Thomas Alexander grilled Stanton on her executive turnover, which he said was higher than at other state agencies.
“I’ve not seen a turnover to the level that you’ve had there,” said Thomas, chairman of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.
Stanton blamed the departures on low pay. “A lot of our former senior staff have gone back into the private sector or have gone to jobs that pay more money,” she said.
But Anderson cut her off.
“I’ve looked at your salaries for your senior executive staff and compared it to other agencies, and it’s … very, very lucrative from that standpoint,” he said. “Your salaries are not low salaries.”
Stanton replied with a different explanation: “I think what they would tell you is many of them came in to do a job and to help turn the agency around. And many of them did and moved on.”