The Obama Administration has selected Patricia A. Shiu, a public interest employment lawyer, to head the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP is the DOL sub-agency charged with administering and enforcing three laws that prohibit discrimination and require federal contractors and subcontractors to implement affirmative action plans.
Shiu is currently the Vice President for Programs at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) in San Francisco. According to biographical information posted by the National Employment Law Association (NELA), Shiu joined the Employment Law Center in 1983, and has focused on employment discrimination and family and medical leave cases. She has also served as the director of the Society’s Work and Family Project, and lobbied for the passage of California’s Family Rights Act and its regulations. In 1993, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley appointed Shiu to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Reviewing Authority. In addition, Shiu is a former member of NELA’s Executive Board, and served as one of its vice presidents.
Given Shiu’s past focus on family leave and discrimination, it is likely that she will be a strong advocate for gender pay equity issues. Particularly relevant to her position at the OFCCP is the pending Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12, S. 182), which was passed in the House and has been placed on the Senate calendar. This bill would, among other things, reinstate the OFCCP’s discarded Equal Opportunity Survey, which the agency used to gather certain employment information from federal contractors and subcontractors related to the their Affirmative Action Programs, personnel activity and compensation. This bill would also add additional investigative methodologies for the OFCCP to use in performing compensation analysis. Thus, it can be expected that Shiu will be a strong proponent for this bill’s passage.
Shiu’s job will also entail hiring and training a number of new OFCCP compliance officers. The DOL’s budget provides the OFCCP with a considerable boost in funding this year for the hiring and training of more than 200 new compliance officers. Moreover, there are many current vacancies within the OFCCP, which has caused a tremendous audit backlog.
It is unclear at this point whether Shiu will face Senate confirmation. Assuming she starts her job as the OFCCP director in September when Congress resumes, her position as a deputy assistant secretary of labor will not require a Senate vote. However, in November the Employment Standards Administration (ESA) – the umbrella agency within the DOL that encompasses the OFCCP along with three other DOL subagencies – will be abolished. At this point, the leaders of the OFCCP will report directly to the Secretary of Labor. If Shiu’s position changes to that of an assistant secretary, a formal Senate confirmation process could be in order.