Trump Nominates Feldblum to Third Term on EEOC

Gay rights activist and harassment prevention champion nominated for five more years

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. December 13, 2017
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​In a surprise move, President Donald Trump on Dec. 11 nominated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Commissioner and gay rights activist Chai Feldblum to serve a third term on the commission.

The Senate has not yet confirmed two of his other nominees, Republicans Janet Dhillon and Daniel Gade, to serve on the five-member commission. EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic is the only Republican on the commission. Feldblum is a Democrat, as are Commissioner Charlotte Burrows and Commissioner Jenny Yang. Yang would be replaced by Gade, should he be confirmed.

The commission traditionally has three commissioners from the political party of the president and two from the opposing political party.

Feldblum's term was to expire in July 2018 but now, if her nomination by Trump is confirmed, would serve until July 2023.

We've rounded up the latest news on how Feldblum's nomination might affect the workplace. Here are SHRM Online resources plus articles from other trusted sources.

Focus on Sexual Orientation Issues

During Feldblum's service on the EEOC, she has focused on sexual orientation and transgender discrimination, as well as harassment prevention, the employment of people with disabilities and pregnancy accommodation. The first openly lesbian commissioner of the EEOC and fourth with a disability, Feldblum worked to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights even before her appointment to the commission when she was a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. In addition to being one of the original drafters of the Americans with Disabilities Act, she was one of the drafters of the original Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit private employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation but has not passed. (EEOC)

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

Role in Expanding Title VII's Scope

Feldblum has played an instrumental role in persuading the commission to take the stand that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual orientation discrimination and continues to advocate that position.

 

This year, one appeals court—the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—adopted that stance, creating a split among the appellate courts that some speculate the U.S. Supreme Court one day may have to resolve. However, the high court on Dec. 11 declined to clarify the scope of Title VII. (SHRM Online)

Harassment Prevention Initiative

Feldblum also championed harassment prevention, co-chairing a select task force on harassment prevention that culminated in a report in June 2016. At the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition, she said, "We're trying to change behaviors. The best way to do that is to create a culture where it's just not cool to sexually harass someone or racially harass someone." The right tone has to be set at the top, she noted. Employees "have to believe that leaders mean what they say" when the C-suite says it wants to stop harassment. (SHRM Online)

Four Checklists Recommended to Prevent Harassment

Feldblum told attendees of the SHRM 2017 Employment Law & Legislative Conference that she was shocked when she started her first term in 2010 by how much harassment was still going on. In fiscal year 2016, the year that has the most recent charge statistics, a third of all charges with the agency were harassment claims. The EEOC decided that it should improve its education on ways to prevent harassment in addition to enforcing Title VII. She recommended that employers use four checklists in the commission's 2016 report to prevent harassment. (SHRM Online)

Active Twitter Account

Active on her Twitter account, Feldblum recently has often tweeted about the #MeToo movement, encouraging bystander intervention training; empowerment of vulnerable workers, such as immigrants, against harassment; and publicizing how the EEOC can help with harassment complaints. (Twitter)

 


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