After a two-year delay, President Trump’s nominee, Janet L. Dhillon, has finally been sworn in as Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Washington, D.C.
Dhillon, 57, was first nominated by President Trump on June 29, 2017, to one of the Republican seats on the Commission. She finally was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 8 by a vote along partisan lines of 50-43. Her five-year term will extend until July 1, 2022.
With Dhillon’s swearing-in, the Commission regains the quorum that it had lost on January 3 following the departure of former commissioner Chai Feldblum. Dhillon joins Republican Victoria Lipnic, who has been Acting Chair, and Democrat Charlotte Burrows on the EEOC board. Two of the five commission seats remain vacant at present.
The five-member Commission requires at least three seats to be filled to make decisions on large lawsuits, major spending, and other important policy decisions.
Dhillon is an experienced corporate lawyer, having practiced law in the private sector for over 25 years. She has no experience working in the public sector or leading a government agency.
Prior to joining the EEOC, Dhillon served as General Counsel of Burlington Stores, Inc. Previously, she was General Counsel of JC Penney Company, Inc. and of US Airways Group, Inc. Dhillon’s husband of 34 years, attorney Uttam Dhillon, is currently working in the White House Counsel’s office on President Trump’s Compliance and Ethics team.
A two-year impasse had resulted in Congress over Dhillon’s nomination due to fears by liberals that she would change the EEOC’s position on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workplace rights. The Commission currently maintains that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—a stand that is at odds with the Department of Justice, and that Dhillon has declined to say she would continue. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in the near future on the issue.
Dhillon, a native of California, began her legal career at the New York City power law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where she practiced for 13 years. She is a 1984 graduate of Occidental College, and the UCLA School of Law, both in Los Angeles. At UCLA Law, where she received the J.D. degree in 1991, she ranked first in her class of 322 students.
Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland was among those who opposed the Dhillon’s confirmation, saying that she “has spent her career protecting corporations that are accused of discrimination by their workers. … Ms. Dhillon’s nomination to chair the EEOC is yet another way that the Trump Administration keeps rigging the system for their corporate allies and stacking the deck against working people.” The NAACP also opposed the nomination, stating that “Janet Dhillon’s interests lie in protecting the interests of businesses, not in protecting or advancing workers’ rights.”
In contrast, many national business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Restaurants, urged the Senate to confirm Dhillon.
The EEOC is the federal government agency that enforces federal anti-discrimination laws throughout the country. It’s also responsible for collecting and analyzing workforce data through the EEO-1 report, which currently collects demographic employee information, organized by race, sex, and ethnicity.