Trump Names Victoria Lipnic Acting Chair of EEOC

By Allen Smith, J.D. Jan 26, 2017
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​The new acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a great choice for business and workers alike, management attorneys say.

President Donald Trump made a "fantastic" decision by naming EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic acting chair of the agency, according to Jonathan Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia and New York City.

An acting chair appointment is not necessarily for the long term, but Segal said he hoped it was the case for Lipnic, describing her as "very thoughtful, smart and balanced. She cares deeply about the laws and employees' rights under them" but also "understands business realities." He expects her to be "pragmatic in her approach."

She won't brook any bias but will try to develop regulations that make it easier for HR to maximize compliance, he predicted.

Bipartisan Approach

Segal worked closely with Lipnic while he served as a member of the EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, work that culminated in the agency's recent guidance on preventing harassment in the workplace.

Lipnic is a Republican but has worked closely with Democratic commissioners, Segal noted.

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Rae Vann, general counsel with the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC), said that Lipnic headed the task force with Democratic Commissioner Chai Feldblum and they "worked very well together. But at the same time, she did not hesitate to express concerns about policies with which she disagreed." Based in Washington, D.C., the EEAC provides guidance on EEO and affirmative action obligations to nearly 300 major corporations.

Philip Voluck, an attorney with Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck in Blue Bell, Pa., said, "I do not think she will necessarily continue recent EEOC trends." For example, he said that "she was not in favor of the revamped EEO-1 report, which required employers to provide certain wage data as a new category of information."

Precedent for Acting Chair Appointment

Vann noted that former President Barack Obama also appointed an acting chair of the EEOC—Stuart Ishimaru, who served in that capacity from Jan. 20, 2009, until April 7, 2010.

Vann said that the appointment to acting chair does not guarantee that someone ultimately will be appointed chair. For example, Obama appointed Jacqueline Berrien to the position following Ishimaru's service.

But Vann said it would be "strange" for Lipnic not to ultimately be named chair since she is the sole Republican commissioner and is "very well-respected."

Prior Experience

Lipnic served as assistant secretary of labor for employment standards under former President George W. Bush from 2002 until 2009. In that role, she oversaw the Wage and Hour Division, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs and the Office of Labor Management Standards.

While Lipnic was at the Department of Labor, the Wage and Hour Division revised its overtime regulations and its Family and Medical Leave Act rules and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued new guidance for evaluating compensation discrimination.

"I am honored and humbled to be chosen by President Trump to serve as acting chair of EEOC, the agency which safeguards the civil rights of American workers," Lipnic said. "I believe equal employment opportunity is critical to all Americans and to how we define ourselves as a nation. I look forward to working with the president, my colleagues at EEOC, Congress and, of course, the American people in this critical task."

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