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Washington Update

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The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has spent much of April considering several of President Obama’s nominations for key labor and employment policy posts in the executive branch.

On April 10, the committee approved the nomination of Jenny Yang, a partner at Washington, D.C., law firm Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll (at right), to be the fifth member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Yang’s nomination is now headed to the full Senate for consideration.  If confirmed, Yang would join fellow Democrats Jacqueline Berrien and Chai Feldblum and Republicans Constance Barker and Victoria Lipnic on the current EEOC.

On April 24, HELP Committee Chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced that the panel’s consideration of the nomination of Thomas  Perez to replace Hilda Solis as secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor would be delayed until May 8. Perez currently heads the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Last week, Perez  told senators at his April 18 confirmation hearing that pension security and enforcement of wage and hour laws would be among his priorities as secretary.

Finally, the committee recently announced it will hold a May 16 hearing on President Obama's five pending nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The president has re-nominated current Democratic members Mark Gaston Pearce, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. Also nominated to serve on the NLRB were Republican attorneys Harry Johnson of Arent Fox in Los Angeles and Philip Miscimarra of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius in Chicago.

Block and Griffin were appointed to the Board back in January 2012, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held in Noel Canning v. NLRB that their “recess appointments” were unconstitutional because they occurred while the U.S. Senate was in session. The NLRB has announced plans to appeal the Noel Canning case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a related development, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 1120) on April 12 by a vote of 219 to 209 that effectively would put NLRB activity on hold until the Supreme Court resolves the recess appointment uncertainty or the Senate confirms new NLRB members. However, the Senate is not likely to consider H.R. 1120 any time soon. SHRM supports this legislation.

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