The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal discrimination laws. It investigates charges of discrimination filed by employees, and attempts to mediate settlements if both parties are willing to try. It has the power to bring lawsuits, but budget and staffing limitations make the Commission do this a very selective basis, picking their fights carefully.
Who is in Charge of the EEOC and How Will it Change Under President Trump?
There are 5 governors on the Commission and a General Counsel. By law, no more than 3 of the Commissioners can belong to the same political party. Three Democrats and one Republican appointed under Obama are still sitting, but Trump has taken the Chair away from Jennifer Yang, a liberal employee advocate, and appointed the only Republican, Victoria Lipnic, as Acting Chair. The General Counsel position is vacant and is certain to filled with a conservative Republican by President Trump, but the 3 Democrats will maintain a majority until Jenny Yang’s term is up in July 2017. Trump will then replace her, the Republicans will have a majority, and the Commission will become much less sympathetic to employees and much friendlier to management.
What’s the EEOC been doing about Equal Pay for Women?
Under Obama’s second term, Equal Pay for Women has probably been the Commission’s top priority, principally because Republicans have always succeeded in blocking federal Equal Pay legislation. Advocates have always maintained that no one knows how prevalent pay inequality really is without accurate data, so employers will be required, under present regulations, to file the first pay data reports in March 2018 (for a reporting period beginning March 31, 2017).
Republicans will almost certainly succeed in stopping this requirement from ever going into effect, and a Republican majority EEOC is not likely to be a driving force for equal pay for women.
What Other Efforts Has the EEOC been making?
The Commission had also brought lawsuits against employers based upon religious discrimination against Muslims and those of Middle Eastern ethnicity, and against employers who have discriminated against members of the LGBT community. Once Republicans have complete control of the Commission, any litigation already in place is likely to be channeled into mediation or conciliation and settled on terms favorable to management.
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