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Fast Food Workers File Complaints Against Companies Run By Trump Labor Pick


The confirmation hearing for President Trump's nominee for secretary of labor has been delayed a second time. Fast food executive Andrew Puzder's hearing will now be held on February 7. This comes as current and former workers file complaints alleging employment law violations at his company, CKE Restaurants. CKE is the parent company of Carl's Jr., Hardee's and other restaurants. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Ceatana Cordona says she was sexually harassed when she worked nights running the cashier at a Hardee's in Tampa, Fla.

CEATANA CORDONA: When I was one and a half months pregnant with my youngest child, he asked me for a kiss. I refused and began to walk away, but he grabbed me by the collar and, inches from my face, said, if you don't start giving me what I want, I'm going to have to start taking it from you.

NOGUCHI: Cardona says after she complained to another supervisor, she was given fewer, less desirable hours. She eventually left. Now Cordona is filing a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington. She's one of 33 workers filing complaints so far this year detailing allegations of wage theft, harassment and discrimination at CKE Restaurants and their franchises. She says she holds Puzder ultimately responsible.

CORDONA: I'm holding him accountable for the harassment I experienced.

NOGUCHI: But the industry stands behind their man. Puzder is credited with helping manage the restaurant chain through financially troubled times in the 1990s. In a statement, the National Restaurant Association defended Puzder's business record, saying the unions publicizing the workers complaints are misrepresenting his record. The Trade Association cited a recent survey showing 92 percent of employees at CKE called it, quote, "a good place to work."

But the nominee finds himself defending his outspoken objection to minimum wage increases, advocating automation, as well as his company's record with regulators. Washington Democrat Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Senate committee hosting Puzder's hearing, criticized him for not submitting required paperwork. Cathy Ruckelshaus is the litigation director for the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. She says over the last decade, over half of labor and workplace safety investigations at CKE found violations.

CATHERINE RUCKELSHAUS: The U.S. Senate has all the reason it needs to reject this nomination and demand a labor secretary who will look out for working Americans, instead of one who looks for ways to keep them down.

NOGUCHI: CKE Restaurants did not respond to requests for comment. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.