UPDATE: Oct. 6, 2022: The EEOC confirmed in an email to HR Dive that the agency has received and is reviewing the letter from Foxx and Burr. "We are happy to work with our partners in Congress to ensure the vigorous enforcement of the federal laws that protect equal employment opportunity in America’s workplaces," the agency said.
A pair of Republican Congressional legislators have issued a set of inquiries regarding recent policy decisions by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a Sept. 27 letter to EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, ranking member on the House Committee on Education and Labor, and Sen. Richard Burr, ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, cited an Aug. 24 opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal and written by Republican EEOC Commissioners Janet Dhillon and Keith Sonderling.
Dhillon and Sonderling wrote that the agency’s general counsel had begun administratively withdrawing, rather than formally closing, cases where a majority of the commission voted not to file a lawsuit. “The result of such subterfuge is to allow the General Counsel to bring the proposed lawsuit before the Commission again—presumably when it has a majority in place that will support your political agenda,” the lawmakers wrote.
The practice would be a reversal of reforms implemented by Dhillon in 2021, when she then served as chair prior to the inauguration of President Joe Biden, according to Foxx and Burr.
The pair of lawmakers also took issue with the EEOC’s June 2021 technical assistance document addressing Title VII protections against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. Though the document was subject to a federal judge’s injunction issued last July, Foxx and Burr said the document “went far beyond” the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga.
As a third matter, Foxx and Burr queried Burrows about a complaint from Dhillon regarding commissioner access to EEOC’s case management system. “Will you commit to giving all Commissioners and their staffs on-demand and unfettered access to the case management system immediately?” they asked, among other questions about improving commissioners’ access to and education on the system.
“Cumulatively, these actions demonstrate a pattern of partisanship and mismanagement that merits oversight,” Foxx and Burr said.
An EEOC spokesperson did not respond to an HR Dive request for comment by press time.
The inquiry comes amid a time of heightened partisan debate at EEOC. The commission is currently led by Burrows, a Democrat, despite having a 3 to 2 Republican majority. That could change, however, as the Biden administration looks to confirm nominee Kalpana Kotagal to take the spot of the outgoing Dhillon — who remains able to serve on the commission past the expiration of her appointed term as per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.