Just before Christmas, the Senate confirmed President Obama's three recess appointments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic. Without the confirmation, Lipnic's recess appointment would have retired, leaving only 3 commissioners plus the chair.
Lack of confirmation could have resulted in more of a shift in the EEOC's ideology than has already occurred with a Democratic majority on the Commission. Lipnic and Constance Barker are the two Republican commissioners. Stuart Ishimaru, a Democrat, rounds out the panel.
Now that we know who's going to be leading the EEOC's agenda for a while, let's take a look at the background of those on the Commission:
Jacqueline Berrien (Chair, Democrat): Berrien came to the EEOC from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she had worked for the last 5 1/2 years. Her previous employment roles, including some time at the American Civil Liberties Union, allowed her to represent voters on issues of representation and voting rights, and for women's rights.
Stuart J. Ishimaru (Commissioner): Ishimaru started his service on the Commission under George W. Bush in 2003 as a Democratic appointment. Ishimaru was acting Chair during the last few years when the EEOC saw its budget increased significantly in order to ramp up its enforcement efforts and staffing. The drive to investigate and litigate systemic discrimination cases began under Ishimaru's tenure as acting Chair. He testified before Congress in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (which, if passed, would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation).
Constance S. Barker (Commissioner): Barker was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2008. Prior to joining the Commission, she worked for a private firm in Alabama defending businesses in cases of harassment and discrimination. She also worked as an assistant district attorney and has spent her time on the Commission focusing on issues involving worksite rape and sexual assault.
Chai Feldblum (Commissioner): Feldblum has previous legislative experience in playing major roles in the drafting of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Amendments which were passed in 2008. She worked for the American Civil Liberties Union as legislative counsel for its AIDS project and played a significant role in drafting the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Feldblum has been perhaps the most controversial of President Obama's appointments given her particularly strong views on advancing the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals.
Victoria A. Lipnic (Commissioner): Lipnic came to the EEOC from private practice with a Washington, D.C. law firm. She previously worked in government, having oversight responsibilities for the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor when it overhauled its overtime and exemption standards, as well as playing a role in the issuance of revised Family and Medical Leave Act regulations.