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Biden taps lawyer behind Hollywood’s ‘inclusion rider’ for EEOC job

Signage is seen at the headquarters of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Washington, DC, U.S., May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Kalpana Kotagal launched a tactic to increase diversity in film productions
  • She also represented Walmart employees in a landmark gender bias case.
  • Confirmation would create a Democratic majority at the anti-bias agency

(Reuters) – President Joe Biden is nominating Kalpana Kotagal, a civil rights lawyer who helped develop a new tactic to increase diversity in Hollywood productions, for a seat on the U.S. agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws on the workplace, the White House announced on Friday. .

Kotagal, a partner at the plaintiffs’ prominent Cohen Milstein law firm in Washington, D.C., would give Democrats a 3-2 advantage on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the ability to pass various pro-worker policies supported by the Biden administration.

Kotagal did not respond to a request for comment.

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Joseph Sellers, co-chairman of Cohen Milstein’s Civil Rights and Employment Practice Group, said in an interview that Kotagal was a “brilliant choice” for the EEOC job. She not only has years of experience representing workers in discrimination cases, but has also advised companies on diversity and inclusion policies, Sellers said.

“I think she’s going to bring very balanced and valuable perspectives on the realities of work,” he said.

Amid the #MeToo movement, Kotagal and other advocates developed the concept of an “inclusion endorsement,” which is a provision in actors’ contracts requiring studios to hire more diverse cast and crew.

Kotagal has represented workers in high-profile class action lawsuits against AT&T Mobility and Sterling Jewelers, and in the landmark case Dukes v. Walmart. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2011 decision in that case, ruled that a national class of 1.5 million female Walmart employees was inappropriate due to regional variations in company policies.

Cohen Milstein represents thousands of Walmart employees who have subsequently filed smaller class action lawsuits or individual cases against the company.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Kotagal would replace EEOC Commissioner Janet Dhillon, a Republican, whose term expires in July. Dhillon was nominated by former Republican President Donald Trump and served as the agency’s chairman until Biden took office last year.

Republicans currently have a 3-2 majority in the EEOC, even though the current chair, Charlotte Burrows, is a Democrat.

Read more:

Oscar winner McDormand wants ‘inclusion jumper’ What is it?

Women in Hollywood See Gains After Oscars Equality Advocacy

AT&T Mobility hit with nationwide class action lawsuit over pregnancy bias

Workers say Sterling Jewelers encouraged rampant sexual harassment

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Daniel Wiessner

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be contacted at [email protected]