A divided Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be in the agency’s future, at least temporarily, as vice chairwoman Jenny Yang steps into the chair seat vacated this week by Jacqueline Berrien.
President Obama named Yang as the new chairwoman on Tuesday. Yang, who would be the agency’s first Asian-American chair, has a term that expires July 1, 2017.
With Berrien’s departure, the EEOC is left with four members: Democratic appointees Yang and Chai Feldblum and Republican members Constance Barker and Victoria Lipnic.
As vice chairwoman, Yang led a comprehensive review of the EEOC’s approach to systemic discrimination, which deals with issues of alleged discrimination that have broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic area. She also represented the agency on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Fifty years ago, this nation made a fundamental promise to its people to assure equality of opportunity at work,” Yang said in a statement on Tuesday. “Congress created the EEOC to make good on this promise—to lead the nation in enforcing our anti-discrimination laws and to champion equal employment opportunity in workplaces across America. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility to serve this remarkable agency in fulfilling this promise to our nation.”
Before joining the EEOC, Yang was a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, where she represented employees in numerous complex civil rights and employment actions. She also served as a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s employment litigation section, where she enforced federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment by state and local government employers from 1998 to 2003.
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, called Yang’s selection “a wise, strong choice.” She added: “Her track record of promoting fairness and equal opportunity in our workplaces is unsurpassed.”