Congress confirmed last week President Obama’s recess appointments of two employee leave mavens as EEOC Commissioners as well as the EEOC Chair and General Counsel. The EEOC now has a full complement of members with confirmed appointments.
EEOC Commissioners Chai Feldblum, a former Georgetown University Law Professor, and Victoria Lipnic, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor, have been serving under recess appointments since April 2010. Commissioner Feldbum was confirmed for a term expiring on July 1, 2013; Commissioner Lipnic’s term will expire on July 1, 2015.
Both Commissioners have been in the vanguard on employee leave issues. Commissioner Feldblum was involved in drafting and negotiating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2009 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. Also, while at Georgetown, Feldblum was the Co-Director of Workplace Flexibility 2010 , a public policy initiative which advocates for flexible work arrangements, including time off.
During Commissioner Lipnic’s tenure at the DOL, the agency proposed revised FMLA regulations, evaluated comments on that proposal and issued final revised regulations, which went into effect in January 2009. The FMLA entitles eligible employees to time off from work and these regulations define the parameters of that entitlement.
Congress also confirmed the nomination of Jacqueline A. Berrien to be Chair of the EEOC and David Lopez to be General Counsel. Ms. Berrien and Mr. Lopez had also been serving under recess appointments.
Leave and disability related issues will fare prominently on the EEOC’s 2011 agenda. The EEOC’s final regulations on GINA are effective in January 2011. Disability and leave management attorneys eagerly await the EEOC’s final rule to implement the equal employment provisions of the ADA Amendments Act. The EEOC had stated in its recent Semiannual Regulatory Agenda that it “plans to issue a final rule by the end of December, 2010” subject to expedited review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. With but hours left in 2010, the EEOC has not yet published the final rule. Also, for FY 2009, the most recent period for reported statistics, the number of disability charges filed with the EEOC exceeded, 21,000, the most ever. Add to this the fact that courts are just now beginning to decide cases under the ADA Amendments Act and one can comfortably speculate that the challenges facing employers to manage workplace disability issues, including attendance and leaves, will grow in 2011.