eeocseal.jpgBy Lorie Almon and Gerald L. Maatman, Jr.

We were fortunate this afternoon to attend the reception for the ceremonial swearing in for Jenny Yang, the newest Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Nominated by President Obama in August of 2012 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in April of 2013, Ms. Yang fills the fifth seat of the line-up of Commissioners, now giving Democrats the edge with a 3-to-2 majority amongst the leadership of the EEOC. The Honorable Raymond Lohier, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit administered the ceremonial oath to Ms. Yang in a ceremony at the EEOC’s headquarters.

Ms. Yang is believed to be the first Asian-American woman to hold high office at the Commission. She fills the seat vacated by former Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru. Today marked her 18th day on the job at the Commission (click here to read the EEOC’s press release).

Ms. Yang brings considerable experience to her office, having been a partner in the civil rights and employment litigation department of Cohen Milstein, a leading plaintiffs’ class action law firm. After her confirmation by the Senate, civil rights organizations were unanimous in their praise of her abilities. Ms. Yang, a graduate of Cornell and New York University Law School, also formerly worked in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division Employment Litigation Section.

In her remarks today, Ms. Yang indicated that her keen areas of concern include prohibitions against caregiver and pregnancy discrimination, as well as enforcement of the Equal Pay Act. She also said that charging parties should understand that “you are not alone in a private struggle, but we [the EEOC] are right there with you.”

Furthermore, as a result of Yang’s appointment, employers may anticipate more worker-friendly guidance from the EEOC on discrimination issues. The 3-to-2 Democrat majority among the complement of Commissioners means that the balance is apt to shift toward a more activist view of the EEOC’s role in enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.

As a workplace class action lawyer in private practice, Yang is likely to become a champion for the EEOC’s commitment to taking action in cases where systematic violations are suspected.  Her experience and expertise lend themselves to high-level, big issue cases where relief is sought for large numbers of workers.


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               Judge Raymond Lohier administering the ceremonial oath to Jenny Yang