In Focus: Newly Nominated EEOC Chair Has Experience with Fortune 500 Companies

By Allen Smith, J.D. Jun 30, 2017
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​Janet Dhillon

​Rather than appoint Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic to lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Trump administration opted for a fresh voice: Janet Dhillon.

Steeped in experience with Fortune 500 companies, having served as general counsel with three of them, Dhillon's five-year term would expire on July 1, 2022, and her chairmanship begin as of confirmation by the Senate.

Dhillon is currently executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Burlington Stores, Inc. Previously, she was executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of J.C. Penney Company Inc., and prior to that, was senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer of US Airways.

Shake-Up?

Dhillon's nomination may signal a shake-up at the agency, where the five-member commission has one vacancy and Commissioner Jenny Yang's term is due to expire next month. President Trump has not yet nominated a replacement for the EEOC's general counsel position, vacated last year by David Lopez, who led the commission's systematic enforcement initiatives. (The National Law Journal)

Yang May Stay 60 More Days

Yang, a Democrat, has announced she will stay at the agency after her term ends July 1, using a legal option that lets commissioners remain for at least 60 days after their terms formally expire. Yang was the agency's chair from September 2014 to Jan. 25, 2017, when Trump named Lipnic acting chair. (Bloomberg BNA)

Lipnic Passed Over

Some observers thought Lipnic, with her vast experience in the government in both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama's administrations, might be a shoe-in for the chairmanship. Lipnic, a Republican, worked closely with Democrat Commissioner Chai Feldblum on the EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, which culminated in the agency's guidance on preventing harassment in the workplace. (SHRM Online)

ADEA Anniversary Marked

More recently, Lipnic oversaw a public meeting on June 14 marking the Age Discrimination in Employment Act's (ADEA's) 50th anniversary. Lipnic noted that the principle of the ADEA is that ability matters—not age. That's more relevant today than ever, she added, because as the large Baby Boomer generation ages, there are many more older individuals who need to work and the economy needs them to remain in the workplace. (SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Equal Employment Opportunity]

Retailers Welcome Dhillon

Dhillon's backers include the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which welcomed her nomination. "RILA congratulates Janet on her nomination to the EEOC. As a private-sector general counsel with long-time experience in the retail industry, Janet is an exceptional choice to help the commission succeed in its mission," read a statement from RILA. Dhillon served as president of RILA's sister organization, the Retail Litigation Center. "As the nation's largest private-sector employer, retail supports over 42 million jobs. Janet truly understands the impact and opportunity retail provides." (RILA)

Lipnic Would Remain on Commission

Lipnic won't be leaving the commission should Dhillon be confirmed. Lipnic's second term doesn't expire until July 1, 2020. In addition to Lipnic, Yang and Feldblum, the EEOC has Commissioner Charlotte Burrows, a Democrat, whose term ends July 1, 2019. If Dhillon is confirmed and Yang's seat is vacated and filled by a Republican, Republican commissioners will have a 3-2 edge over Democrat commissioners. (EEOC)

 

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