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Biden Team Eyes Jenny Yang, Ex-EEOC Chair, to Run Labor Agency

Jan. 15, 2021, 9:54 PM

The incoming Biden administration is giving serious consideration to selecting Jenny Yang, a former EEOC chair, to head the Labor Department’s contractor compliance agency, according to two sources familiar with internal personnel discussions.

Selecting Yang to run the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which polices federal contractors for compliance with anti-discrimination laws, would effectively assign a transition team member who has a significant track record in combating the gender pay gap to work on a priority area for President-elect Joe Biden.

Yang served on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government’s workplace civil rights agency, from 2013-2018, including for more than two years as the commission’s chair, from 2014 to 2017. During her tenure she spearheaded an initiative to collect pay data from private employers, a step many civil rights groups say is vital for eradicating pay disparities experienced by women and people of color.

Choosing her for the OFCCP post—a position that doesn’t require Senate confirmation—would give credence to the Biden team’s commitment to address workplace disparities for women and people of color—promises which will be closely monitored following the death of George Floyd while in police custody and consequent national conversations about systemic inequality in the workplace and in other spheres.

Biden has nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to serve as labor secretary, but the transition hasn’t publicly announced selections to run key DOL subagencies. Yang is a member of the Biden transition’s review team for the Labor Department.

The sources familiar with discussions about Yang requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to share internal communications. Biden’s transition team didn’t immediately return phone calls and emails requesting comment about Yang’s potential placement at the OFCCP.

Since leaving the EEOC, Yang has continued to advocate for the importance of government collection of employer pay data. The Trump administration halted an EEOC pay data collection approved during the Obama administration, until a judge reinstated it. The EEOC is currently assessing how to move forward.

As an EEOC commissioner, Yang also pushed to expand protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers under federal anti-discrimination law. She prioritized investigating and litigating cases involving systemic bias practices that are prevalent across an entire workplace, industry, or region.

The OFCCP’s enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action obligations among federal contractors has a broad reach, as firms that handle government work employ roughly 25% of the U.S. domestic workforce. The agency has been used in the past as a conduit for presidential priorities, both under the Obama and Trump administrations.

The Biden administration has stated an interest in collecting pay data from private employers, and consideration of Yang for the top job at the OFCCP implies that they could use the Labor Department to do so. The OFCCP collected data from federal contractors during the Clinton administration, and proposed doing so again during the Obama administration, though that collection didn’t come to fruition.

The OFCCP has sued high-profile federal contractors like Oracle America Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. over alleged pay discrimination.

Prior to joining the EEOC, Yang was a partner at plaintiff’s law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and a senior trial attorney at the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Most recently, she’s been a senior fellow at the left-leaning Urban Institute and a strategic partner at consultancy Working Ideal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com; Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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