Naomi Earp Resigns from EEOC

By Bill Leonard Jun 9, 2009
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Earp_Naomi.jpgNaomi Earp, former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), resigned her post as commissioner of the EEOC on June 5, 2009. Her resignation reduces the number of serving EEOC commissioners to three.

Earp left the commission to become the director of the office of opportunity, inclusiveness and compliance for the Library of Congress. She started her new job on June 8, 2009.

By law, the EEOC is supposed to have five commissioners who are appointed by the president. Earp’s departure places more pressure on the Obama administration to fill two open positions on the commission, sources say. The job of EEOC general counsel also remains open.

Before Earp announced her resignation, sources familiar with the issue had been expecting President Barack Obama to announce nominations to fill the EEOC job openings. When he took office on Jan. 20, 2009, Obama named Stuart Ishimaru as acting chair of the EEOC, replacing Earp in the commission’s top post, and elevated Christine Griffin to the post of acting vice chair. Political observers had speculated that Obama would nominate a permanent EEOC chair once the White House had identified a candidate.

During her tenure as EEOC chair, Earp had to deal with a controversial relocation of the commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., and with dwindling resources and staff. The relocation of the EEOC offices in June 2008 upset many members of the EEOC staff, when Earp announced the planned move from downtown Washington to a “transitional neighborhood” located in the Northeast section of the city. Some members of the staff compared the mood at EEOC headquarters to a “Mutiny on the Bounty” atmosphere. According to several sources, Earp handled the controversy well, explaining that it was a decision made by the General Services Administration and would save the EEOC money in the long run.

Earp made it clear in her farewell announcement to the staff that she had been challenged by the budget constraints placed on the commission and that she hopes that the Obama administration will provide more money and staff to the agency.

“First and foremost, I am troubled by the lack of resources to address all the varied and compelling commission needs,” Earp wrote in her farewell statement. “It is my fervent prayer and hope that the current administration will consistently and abundantly direct some financial largess[e] to EEOC. Despite modest increases over the last decade, the commission could use a ‘budget bailout.’”

Earp had served as a member of the commission since April 2003, first as vice chair. She was appointed EEOC chair in 2006 by President George W. Bush. During her tenure as EEOC chair, the number of complaints filed with the EEOC climbed steadily to a record 95,402 charges filed in fiscal year 2008. As Earp indicated in her statement, the increasing caseload and declining resources have led to an increase in the commission’s backlog of cases.

The backlog of cases increased to approximately 67,000 in 2008, compared to nearly 55,000 in 2007. It is projected to increase to 75,000 cases during 2009.

Bill Leonard is senior writer forSHRM Online.

Related Article:

Obama Appoints Acting Chair, Vice Chair of EEOC, HR News, Jan. 27, 2009

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