During the week of April 17, I was invited to attend a Meet and Greet with one of the nation’s five Employment Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) commissioners, Charlotte A. Burrows, in the EEOC s downtown Raleigh, N.C., office. I received the invite since I am an officer of the Raleigh Business and Professional Network, Raleigh’s National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate chapter.
Nominated by President Barack Obama on Sept. 12, 2014, Burrows was confirmed on Dec. 3, 2014, when the Senate voted 93-2 in favor for her to serve as commissioner until July 1, 2019, when her term is due to expire.
Burrows previously served as associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice (DOJ), where she worked on a broad range of legal and policy issues, including employment litigation, tribal justice, voting rights, and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act, among others.
She also had a career working for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as general council for Civil and Constitutional Rights on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in 2009, among other posts.
Burrows earlier work was as a trial attorney, special litigation counsel and deputy chief in the DOJ s Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. And, she worked as a judicial clerk. She was an associate with Debevoise & Plimpton.
The reception started with each of us 25 attendees greeting and introducing ourselves to Burrows in a reception line, then introducing ourselves briefly to the group, this followed by a 20-minute overview of the EEOC’s current top priorities and a Q&A session. I was extremely impressed with Burrows, who has her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and law degree from Yale University. And I came away from the meeting proud of my country for having a body like the EEOC which is diligently and effectively assuring full rights for all workers in our country.
Burrows then quickly discussed several of the major areas the EEOC was working on:
1. Retaliation Charges. Focusing on retaliation charges since they are the largest percentage of cases brought to the EEOC at 43 percent of the total. She also stated that retaliation is most often the easiest charge for people (juries) to understand.
2. Equal Pay for Equal Work. When equal pay for women was introduced by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the pay differential between women and men was 41 cents on the dollar. That has now been cut in half to 21 cents, but that is still too large. Even normalizing for time in the position and other factors, it is still 7 to 8 cents. The EEOC is studying lots of data to identify the hot spots or largest environments for gaps in pay so they can be addressed.
3. Pregnant Employees. Providing stronger guidance on pregnant employees since there is still too high an instance of employees being fired for being pregnant.
4. LGBT concerns. The EEOC believes that sexual orientation and gender identity are indeed covered under Title VII, and they are vigorously addressing this kind of workplace discrimination. I’ll discuss this in more detail in Part 2 of this story.
5. Vulnerable Workers. Protection of vulnerable workers within the underground economy, a large number of them being undocumented immigrants working in the farming industry. She mentioned some horrific cases such as one employer routinely raping female employees with impunity since the women were powerless to report this abuse.
6. Diversity of police forces. The EEOC is teaming with the Justice Department and collecting best practices from police departments that are successfully diversifying their forces to be more representative of the communities they serve.
I am very encouraged by the work of the EEOC to ensure that every worker in our country receives fair treatment and equality under the law, which is truly the American Way.
— Stan Kimer, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, is a Raleigh, N.C.-based business consultant who provides corporate and organizational training on a wide range of diversity topics including transgender diversity.