Trump Tabs New Temporary Heads of NLRB and EEOC

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 27, 2017

President Trump has taken his first steps to shift the direction of two key federal agencies in naming Philip Miscimarra and Victoria Lipnic as acting chairs of the National Labor Relations Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission respectively. While President Obama had appointed Miscimarra and Lipnic, both are Republicans who often dissented from employee-friendly rulings and regulations.

Speaking with XpertHR, Littler Mendelson employment attorney Michael Lotito said of the appointments, "It's a statement from the Trump administration that they do want more management influence at the agencies." But Lotito, who co-chairs the firm's Workplace Policy Institute, called the appointments more of a "symbolic statement", since Democrats remain in the majority for now at both agencies.

Lotito said there is the opportunity for faster change at the NLRB. That's because while the labor board currently consists of two Democrats and Miscimarra, there are currently two vacancies. The current ratio at the EEOC is three Democrats and Lipnic, with one vacant seat to be filled.

Despite the current makeup of the NLRB and EEOC, Lotito said, "The chair may have influence as to how cases are prioritized." He added that many employers would like to see quick changes in particular at the NLRB.

Miscimarra has served on the NLRB since 2013. Before joining the Board, he was a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School in the Wharton Center for Human Resources, and a management-side labor and employment lawyer in Chicago.

In a statement, Miscimarra said, "I remain committed to the task that Congress has assigned to the Board, which is to foster stability and apply the National Labor Relations Act in an even-handed manner that serves the interests of employees, employers and unions throughout the country."

Lipnic served as Assistant Secretary of Labor under former President George W. Bush and was considered a finalist for the Secretary of Labor position before President Trump nominated Andrew Puzder. Lipnic had objected to EEOC guidelines that made it easier for employees to sue for age discrimination as well as to guidelines on pregnancy discrimination.

While the appointments are temporary, both Lipnic and Miscimarra would figure to be candidates to be named permanent chairs at a later date.