Andrew Puzder acknowledges employing undocumented worker

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Donald Trump has nominated Andy Puzder, the vocal CEO of the fast-food company CKE Restaurants, that owns burger chains Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, as his secretary of labor. USA TODAY

Then President-elect Donald Trump and Andy Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, walk from Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 19, 2016. In the background is Vice President-elect Mike Pence.(Photo: Associated Press file)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s choice to become labor secretary acknowledged Monday that he employed an undocumented immigrant for years, an admission that has derailed other cabinet nominees in the past.

Andrew Puzder admitted in a statement released late Monday that he had hired an undocumented household worker for years.

“My wife and I employed a housekeeper for a few years, during which I was unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S.,” the statement said. “When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status.”

He added: “We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the state of California and submitted all required paperwork.”

Reports that Puzder had hired an undocumented immigrant first appeared Monday in The Huffington Post.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee that will hold Puzder’s confirmation hearing, said the revelation should not automatically sink his nomination.

“Based upon what I’ve learned, since Mr. Puzder reported his mistake and voluntarily corrected it, I do not believe that this should disqualify him from being a cabinet secretary,” said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Puzder’s confirmation hearing before the panel had been scheduled for Tuesday. But the committee announced last week it was the hearing to allow him to complete his paperwork and to give senators enough time to review it.

The delay marked the fourth time Puzder’s hearing has been postponed. A new hearing date has not been set.

Puzder, who lives in Franklin, Tenn., is the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains. He served as a senior economic adviser during Trump’s campaign and in 2012 also was an economic adviser for the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

Puzder has drawn intense fire from labor unions and other groups over his opposition to raising the minimum wage and over questions about low wages and other workplace practices at his restaurants. He also has criticized a now-halted rule enacted under President Barack Obama that would have expanded eligibility for overtime pay to 4 million Americans.

His revelation that he employed an undocumented worker is certain to bring more criticism and further complicate his confirmation prospects.

In 2001, President George W. Bush’s choice for labor secretary, Linda Chavez, withdrew her nomination amid reports that she had employed an undocumented immigrant a decade earlier.

In 1993, Zoe Baird withdrew her nomination to become Bill Clinton’s attorney general after revelations that she had hired undocumented help and had failed to pay taxes on them.

Reach Michael Collins at , at , or on Twitter at .

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