Republican EEOC recess appointee should be confirmed

The clock is ticking on a little-known but extremely important recess appointment by President Obama, that of Republican Victoria Lipnic as a commissioner to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

While other recess appointments to the EEOC don’t expire until December 2011, Lipnic was the sole Republican to be recessed, but her term was limited to the end of 2010. Failure to confirm Lipnic would be a huge mistake by this lame-duck Senate.

I had the good fortune to work with Lipnic while at the Department of Labor, where she served as the assistant secretary in charge of the Employment Standards Administration. Lipnic’s experience working with stakeholders on issues like the Family Medical Leave Act as the lead regulator provides her with a unique understanding of potential unintended consequences that arise from otherwise well-intentioned regulations.

Victoria Lipnic is a tireless worker who understands the nuances of employment law and the regulatory process, with a unique ability to work with people of different philosophical beliefs to bring them to an understanding of the human downside of their actions.

Among many actions slated for the upcoming year, the EEOC will be issuing final regulations on the amended Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and comments indicate that many employers are concerned that the proposed implementing regulations go far beyond the statutes.

The goal of the ADA is to provide opportunities for those who work through disabilities every day. The danger is that regulatory lightning rods may inadvertently force employers to shy away from hiring people with disabilities for fear of getting sued, or having to incur major accommodation costs. Lipnic’s experience, knowledge and the respect that she earns from her colleagues is essential to helping lessen potential negative impacts of the final regulations.

President Obama has given the Senate a short window to confirm Vicki Lipnic to a five-year term on the EEOC. If the year passes without her receiving confirmation, the EEOC will continue for the next year, posting 3-1 votes on issues, and our nation will be more poorly served without the wisdom and experience that Lipnic brings to the commission.

Hopefully, during the bustle of trying to pass every piece of legislation that they were not able to round up the votes on in the previous 23 months, the Senate will take a few minutes to confirm Lipnic. Our nation’s workforce deserves to have this honest public servant working to protect employment opportunities for all Americans.