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On November 19, 2009, the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a confirmation hearing on the nominations for three Commissioners and for General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The pending nominations include Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chai R. Feldblum, and Victoria A. Lipnic as Commissioners and P. David Lopez as General Counsel.
The hearing was attended by, among others, Acting EEOC Chair Stuart Ishimaru and Commissioner Constance Barker. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) appeared to express their personal support for the confirmation of Feldblum and Berrien, respectively.
Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) highlighted the unique role of the EEOC and its ever-increasing workload. Harkin asserted that EEOC has been underfunded in recent years, resulting in a backlog of over 85,000 claims.
Most questions from the Committee were directed at Berrien and Feldblum. Berrien has been previously reported to be President Obama’s choice to be the Chair, and it is expected that Feldblum would be designated as Vice Chair.
Berrien testified that her priority as Chair would be to improve the service of the EEOC by increasing the strategic efficiency of the Commission. She pledged to work with other government officials and with Congress to ensure the enforcement of employment discrimination laws. Berrien also stressed the importance of preventing employment discrimination by heightening awareness and increasing public outreach.
Feldblum testified about her commitment to civil rights and social welfare issues, particularly for the equal treatment of persons with disabilities, as well as for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. She stressed the importance of seeking common ground and tolerance among diverse populations.
Lipnic stressed improving the Commission’s response time, noting that “justice delayed is justice denied” for both employees and employers. She also noted the burden that EEOC investigations often place on employers.
Lopez testified that he would work as General Counsel to function as a national law firm that “is able to effectively and efficiently muster its resources to combat discrimination and ensure equal opportunity throughout this nation.”
Chairman Harkin noted at the end that the Committee intends to move as expeditiously as possible. The record will remain open for ten days, during which members may submit questions to the nominees.
A video of the hearing and the statements of the nominees are available here.