“Progressive Groups Urge Confirmation of Stalled EEOC Pick,” Law360 Employment Authority
The National Women's Law Center, AFL-CIO, the NAACP and other groups sent a letter to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, imploring them to confirm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC partner Kalpana Kotagal to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The letter, which has 93 signatories and was sent to every member of the Senate, comes after Kotagal's nomination ran aground in May. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee deadlocked in an 11-11 party line vote, failing to send her nomination along to the full Senate for a vote.
The groups, which include civil rights coalition The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, GLAAD and the Service Employees International Union, called Kotagal an "exceptionally qualified" attorney who has been devoted to helping workers stand up for their rights.
"Her deep knowledge of the law and her experience addressing systemic discrimination make her an outstanding choice to help lead the EEOC in its work to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all in workplaces that are respectful and inclusive," the letter said.
If confirmed, Kotagal will swing the EEOC in favor of Democratic priorities — the commission currently has two Democratic commissioners and three Republican commissioners. Republican Commissioner Janet Dhillon saw her term expire this past summer, but she will remain in her position until another nominee is confirmed.
In the Wednesday letter, the civil rights, workers' rights and gender equality organizations pointed to Kotagal's experience litigating discrimination class actions as a member of Cohen Milstein's civil rights and employment group. In Allen v. AT&T Mobility, Kotagal is working with the ACLU Women's Rights Project on the ongoing suit alleging the telecommunications company penalized women for pregnancy-related absences, the groups said.
She also helped workers secure a $9 million settlement alleging the U.S. Postal Service improperly required veterans to answer preemployment medical questions, the organizations said. The letter also pointed out that Kotagal was one of the key architects of the inclusion rider — a contractual provision that encourages increased diversity in Hollywood projects.
"Beyond employment issues, Ms. Kotagal's work has encompassed access to housing and health care, and demonstrates her broad commitment to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity, free from pernicious discrimination," the organizations said.
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Gaylynn Burroughs, director of Workplace Equality at the National Women's Law Center, told Law360 on Wednesday that for low-income women who have suffered discrimination and abuse on the job, having a strong EEOC is essential.
"Kalpana Kotagal is extraordinarily qualified to serve as an EEOC commissioner and will be a deciding vote on issues that are central to working people's lives," Burroughs said. "Seeing Kotagal's nomination through swiftly must be a priority for the Senate."
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