Letter of Support for Reappointment of P. David Lopez as the General Counsel of the US EEOC
1 December 2014
Hon. Harry Reid 522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Re: Senate Vote on the Reappointment of P. David Lopez as the General Counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Dear Senator Reid,
I respectfully write to urge you to affirmatively support, and speak in favor of, the reappointment of Mr. P. David Lopez as General Counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is my understanding that a Senate vote may be scheduled as early as tomorrow, December 2, 2014. Your vocal support on the Senate floor in advance of such a vote would be critical in affirming this excellent nominee.
Mr. Lopez is the first EEOC field trial attorney ever appointed as General Counsel and that experience has been instrumental in his supervision of the litigation efforts of 15 Regional Attorneys and another 325 members of the EEOC staff into an excellent anti-discrimination enforcement agency with a strong trial record of securing verdicts to halt unlawful employment practices.
I head LatinoJustice PRLDEF one of the country’s leading civil rights public interest law offices that represents Latinas and Latinos throughout the country and works to increase their entry into the legal profession. Our work to stem discriminatory employment practices has historically relied upon a vigorous enforcement arm from the EEOC. Indeed, we have collaborated with the EEOC under the leadership of Ms. Jacqueline Berrien, former Chair of the EEOC and Mr. Lopez on numerous occasions in the last four years. Specifically, our testimony on the discriminatory effects of unlawful criminal background check policies for otherwise qualified Latino job-seekers with criminal histories assisted the EEOC in issuing a new guidance policy in this regard. This development is critically important as the U.S. begins to grapple with the effects of mass incarceration policies and the reality that close to a third of the civilian workforce in the country has some form of criminal background history. LatinoJustice PRLDEF also participated in commenting on the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, led by Mr. Lopez, to ensure that adequate protections were in place to root out unlawful national origin discrimination practices. Finally, in a pending litigation in New York
(EEOC v. Suffolk Laundry Services), LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the Regional Director’s office for this region collaborated on the claims of numerous Latina immigrant workers subjected to unlawful sexual harassment acts on the job. Both of our offices are coordinating our litigation efforts in this case and Mr. Lopez’s general supervision of the entire EEOC litigation program was also instrumental in forging this collaboration to protect vulnerable female workers who are generally unaware of their rights to stop sexual harassment given their immigration status.
But Mr. Lopez’s impact on the fair employment rights of the Latino community, the nation’s largest racial/ethnic minority, has also been significant above and beyond the work he has done with my office. In 2010 in an action settled against ABM Industries, a firm providing janitorial services in California, the EEOC was able to secure millions of dollars for 21 Latina workers subjected to unwelcome touching, explicit sexual comments and requests for sex from at least 14 co-workers and supervisors – one of whom raped one of the victims. In 2011 the EEOC settled a case against the Hilton Lisle/Naperville Hotel in Illinois which subjected its kitchen staff to harassment and discrimination when the executive chef repeatedly referred to Latino employees as “s--cs” and “wetbacks.” In 2012 in Dallas another six-figure settlement was secured against DHL Global Forwarding in favor of Mexican, Salvadoran and Puerto Rican heritage workers for national origin discrimination as they were subjected to taunts and derogatory names like “wetback,” “beaner,” “stupid Mexican” “Puerto Rican “b---h” and “salvatrucha” (a term referring to gangsters). Supervisors at the plant also excessively warned their Latino employees about using Spanish on the job. In 2013 a settlement of close to half-a-million dollars was secured against Mesa Systems – a Colorado based moving and storage company – on behalf of Latino workers who were subjected to a hostile work environment that included racial name calling and slurs. Finally, the EEOC’s continued work to protect the rights of farmworkers – especially female farmworkers subject to outrageous sexual assaults, rape and harassment in the fields – has been continued and underscored under the leadership of Mr. Lopez. That work in American farm country has garnered attention nationally through documentaries on public television.
In many ways the work spearheaded by this excellent public servant has focused on the fringes of low-wage employment in America – an area so critically important to the nation’s economy but also dependent on so many Latino employees who are unaware of their rights. Commercial laundry workers, applicants with criminal histories, janitors, kitchen help, farmworkers and movers – these are all part of a strata of employees in the country where some of the worst forms of national origin discrimination occurs regularly because of the enormous economic leverage plant owners and supervisors hold over these vulnerable populations.
That is the strata of employment that needs EEOC protection the most and it is fitting that Mr. Lopez is part of an EEOC administration that has made this a priority. For all his special qualities and strengths, this trajectory alone speaks volumes about the need to reappoint Mr. P. David Lopez as General Counsel to the EEOC.
I trust that you can find the time to be vocally supportive of this important nomination.
Sincerely, Juan Cartagena