Dhillon Confirmed as EEOC Chair, Restoring Quorum

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 9, 2019

The Senate confirmed Janet Dhillon as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) yesterday, giving the agency a quorum for the first time since the January 3 departure of Commissioner Chai Feldblum. It also gives Republicans a majority on the commission for the first time in nearly a decade.

Lawmakers voted 50-43 to confirm Dhillon, who first was nominated by President Donald Trump on June 29, 2017. However, a confirmation vote by the full Senate was delayed by opposition to a package deal of EEOC nominees that included Feldblum, a Democrat, and Daniel Gade, another Republican. The president renominated Dhillon on January 16, 2019, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee reported the nomination out of committee on February 27.

"Janet Dhillon's experience helping ensure companies follow anti-discrimination laws as general counsel for three Fortune 500 companies makes her well-qualified to be a member of the EEOC," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate HELP Committee. "I have no doubt she will work to provide clarity for employee wellness programs and continue to reduce the backlog of discrimination complaints."

Once sworn in, Dhillon will become EEOC chair, replacing Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic (R), who will continue serving as a commissioner until the end of her term on July 1, 2020. The other commissioner is Charlotte Burrows (D), whose term will expire July 1, 2019, and who can elect to stay on for an additional 60 days. This means the existence of the quorum needed to do substantive agency work may be short-lived.

The Commission will still have two vacant commissioner seats, one designated for a Republican and one for a Democrat. Since the start of the current Congress, Gade has withdrawn his name from consideration and Feldblum has gone into private practice. The EEOC General Counsel position also has been vacant since December 2016. A committee vote on President Trump's nominee, Sharon Fast Gustafson, to be General Counsel is expected soon.