Three New EEOC Commissioners Recently Nominated
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President Obama recently nominated Victoria A. Lipnic for a seat on the five-member Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Lipnic is Republican, with an extensive background in employment law.  During the prior Administration, she served as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards from 2002-2009.  In that capacity, Lipnic oversaw the Department of Labor’s largest agency, and led the teams that revised the Part 541 overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations.

Under Lipnic’s leadership, the agency made the first revisions to the union financial disclosure regulations in forty years, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued its first compensation guidance and regulations.  Lipnic also served as counsel for the House Committee on Education and Labor.  Before her work for Congress, Lipnic spent six years as in-house labor and employment counsel for the U.S. Postal Service, then the largest employer in the country.  Most recently, 1she has been Of Counsel with law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP.   She received a B.A. from Allegheny College in 1982, and graduated from the George Mason University School of Law in 1991.  She is admitted to the Pennsylvania bar.

In July 2009, the President named Jacqueline A. Berrien as the next Chair of the EEOC.  Berrien has a strong background in civil rights advocacy, and particularly in the area of voting rights.  Since September, 2004, Berrien has been the Associate Director-Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF).  In that capacity, she supervises litigation, public education, and organizational work.  From 2001-2004, Berrien was a Program Officer in the Governance and Civil Society Unit of the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program.  Before that, she was an attorney with the Voting Rights Projects of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and then Assistant Counsel for the LDF, where she coordinated the areas of voting rights and political participation. 

Berrien received a B.A. with high honors in government from Oberlin College.  She graduated from Harvard Law School, where she was General Editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.  She began her legal career by clerking for the Honorable U.W. Clemon, who was the first African-American U.S. District Court Judge in Birmingham, Alabama.  She has represented African-American voters before the United States Supreme Court and various U.S. Courts of Appeals and U.S. District Courts.  She also has taught trial advocacy at the Harvard and Fordham law schools, and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School. 

In September 2009, President Obama chose Chai R. Feldblum to fill another vacancy on the EEOC.  Feldblum is a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she has taught since 1991.  She specializes in disability discrimination and gay and lesbian rights.  If confirmed, she will serve a five-year term.  Before Georgetown, Feldblum was legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s AIDS Project, where she led efforts (among others) to draft and negotiate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  She also has also been instrumental in supporting the more recent ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and is considered an expert on the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which if enacted would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Feldblum received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from Barnard College.  She clerked for Judge Frank M. Coffin on the First Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court.

All these nominations require Senate confirmation.  They are currently pending before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  Some commentators speculate that Lipnic’s recent nomination will help speed along those of Berrien and Feldblum. 

President Obama has at least one other EEOC appointment on the horizon.  He will need to replace Commissioner Constance Baker, whose term expires in 2011. 

These new EEOC appointments may lead to new enforcement and litigation goals and priorities.  The Commission already has stepped up enforcement activity and likely will continue increasing the overall number of cases filed, particularly those involving systemic discrimination.  Focus likely will turn also to reducing the EEOC’s significant backload of charges, which has more than doubled since 2004.


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