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By Ben Penn
The Labor Department office charged with stakeholder outreach is now being run by a key figure from the franchise industry.
Dean Heyl, who was most recently the International Franchise Association’s chief legal officer, is currently DOL’s public liaison director, according to an update on the department’s website. A DOL spokesman confirmed that Heyl arrived at the department in January. The public liaison director is not a Senate-confirmed post, but plays a major role as the public face of the labor secretary and other officials.
The 14,000 member International Franchise Association represents both franchisers—like McDonald’s, Domino’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Supercuts, Hilton, and Choice Hotels—and franchisee operators.
The group was one of the most vocal critics of the DOL throughout the Obama administration. The lobbying arm for leading fast food and hotel franchise brands, the IFA served as a plaintiff in an industry coalition lawsuit to block the department’s move to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. The group was one of the more aggressive business community opponents of the DOL’s joint employment guidance, overtime regulation, and other initiatives.
“Dean was a great asset to IFA for many years helping franchisees and franchisors navigate complex regulations so these businesses could continue to be a driving force in the economy,” Matthew Haller, a senior vice president at the IFA, told Bloomberg Law. “Secretary Acosta and the administration are lucky to have him on their team.”
The selection of a franchise industry lawyer for the job of interacting with the public could raise questions among worker advocates about the business community’s influence on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s decisions. Former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez—Acosta’s Democratic predecessor—hired a McDonald’s media relations manager, Ofelia Casillas, to head DOL public engagement. Acosta’s early schedule of meetings reflected a balance of both union leaders and employer representatives.
“The choice of an industry lawyer for the position indicates to whom DOL will be listening during the Trump administration, and which groups the DOL leadership expects to support their policies,” Seth Harris, a deputy labor secretary under Barack Obama, told Bloomberg Law.
The public liaison office also traditionally is responsible for bringing an array of business or labor stakeholder groups to the table to inform the agency’s rulemaking process. This means Heyl will have a say in determining which groups inform the department’s ongoing review of several Obama administration regulations, such as a rule to make millions more workers eligible for overtime and to prevent conflicted advice for retirement savers.
In his six years at the IFA, Heyl handled state government relations, before taking the helm of the trade group’s legal shop.
Before joining IFA, Heyl lobbied for the Direct Selling Association and was executive director of the Coalition for Affordable Accounting.
Heyl spent the first leg of his career in the public sector as a senior adviser to the Idaho attorney general and governor.
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