Employment Law Report

President Obama Taps New Head of EEOC

By Kim Koratsky

On July 16, 2009, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Jacqueline Berrien to be the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Berrien, currently associate director-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, is a graduate of Harvard Law School.  Prior to the position with the NAACP, which she began in 2004, Berrien worked for the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union.  When making the announcement, President Obama said  “each of us deserves a fair chance to succeed in our workplace and make a contribution to this nation,” and went on to express his confidence that Berrien’s “passion and leadership will ensure that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is living up to that mission.”

 The EEOC was created in 1964 as part of Title VII, and is empowered to investigate and prosecute employment discrimination complaints based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, and disability.  The EEOC also coordinates the federal government’s internal equal opportunity programs.  Berrien must be confirmed by the Senate prior to taking the helm at the EEOC. 

Based on President Obama’s comments during the campaign, we anticipate an increase in enforcement activities once his appointed chair takes over the EEOC.