Attorneys With EEOC Ties Suggested to Lead Contractor Watchdog

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

Two attorneys with past ties to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have support from some employer-side stakeholders as potential contenders to lead the DOL’s federal contractor compliance agency, contracting industry sources told Bloomberg BNA.

The names of Leslie Silverman and Paul Kehoe, both Republicans, were floated for consideration to fill the role of director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs before Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal as labor secretary nominee, sources said.

Silverman served as an EEOC commissioner and vice chair during President George W. Bush’s administration. She’s currently a management attorney with Fortney & Scott in Washington.

Kehoe, who is associate general counsel at Booz Allen Hamilton, previously worked at the EEOC as an attorney-adviser and special assistant to Commissioner Victoria Lipnic (R).

Industry support for any potential candidate doesn’t necessarily mean President Donald Trump’s administration will actively consider those individuals. It’s possible that Trump’s new labor secretary nominee—former National Labor Relations Board member R. Alexander Acosta—could have different candidates in mind.

But those pushing for Silverman and Kehoe said they believe either would bring the right mix of enforcement- and business-side experience to head the OFCCP, which audits government contractors for compliance with workplace nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements.

A White House spokesman told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 23 that the administration “has no personnel announcements at this time.”

Kehoe: ‘Reasonable Enforcement’ Needed

When contacted by Bloomberg BNA Feb. 23, Kehoe declined to speculate on the administration’s potential personnel actions.

However, he said he believes the OFCCP serves an important function in enforcing civil rights protections.

“But it’s critical that it be run in a manner that promotes competitiveness and the creation of good-paying jobs,” Kehoe said.

He added that he hopes that whoever is chosen to lead the agency will do so “responsibly” and with an eye toward “reasonable enforcement.”

During the Obama administration, the OFCCP received criticism from some employer representatives and Republican lawmakers for what they viewed as burdensome rulemaking and overly aggressive enforcement, especially when it came to pay discrimination.

Worker advocates, however, praised the agency for its efforts in combating systemic discrimination and increasing equal employment opportunity.

Silverman didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

Worker advocacy groups contacted by Bloomberg BNA said they’re examining Silverman’s and Kehoe’s records. However, they declined to comment on either potential candidate.

Silverman Guided EEOC’s Systemic Bias Program

Silverman joined EEOC as a commissioner in March 2002. Bush appointed her as EEOC vice chair in September 2006.

The EEOC enforces a number of anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The OFCCP follows Title VII and ADA precedent in its enforcement efforts.

Before departing the commission in 2008, Silverman told Bloomberg BNA that she considered her work with the EEOC’s Systemic Task Force to be her signature accomplishment at the agency.

Silverman initiated, guided and led the task force, which offered recommendations on how the EEOC could identify, investigate and litigate more claims of systemic bias through class lawsuits. The EEOC unanimously adopted those recommendations in 2006.

“Folks who maybe were a little skeptical” when the task force was formed “have really bought into the idea that this is a really good way for the agency to get to issues of discrimination in society even at a time when we’re not rolling in resources,” Silverman told Bloomberg BNA in an August 2008 interview.

Prior to joining the EEOC, Silverman served as labor counsel on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Silverman earned her J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law and her LL.M. from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Kehoe’s EEOC, Management Background

At the EEOC, Kehoe provided counsel to Lipnic on various policy matters, including the commission’s systemic program and equal pay initiatives. Trump named Lipnic acting chair of the commission last month.

Kehoe also played a role in negotiating and drafting EEOC rules implementing the ADA Amendments Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, according to his former law firm Seyfarth Shaw. He was also involved with enforcement guidance on employers’ use of criminal background checks during hiring.

Before joining the EEOC, Kehoe was a management attorney with Seyfarth in Washington. He returned to Seyfarth after his EEOC tenure and served as senior counsel at the firm, where he worked with Lawrence Lorber, a former OFCCP director under President Gerald Ford. Kehoe joined Booz Allen Hamilton in December 2015.

Kehoe earned his J.D. from the George Washington University Law School.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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