Press Release


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 CONTACT:  Claire Gonzales June 26, 1995                                   Reginald Welch                                                 (202) 663-4900                                                 TDD:  (202) 663-4494 


WASHINGTON -- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chairman Gilbert F. Casellas today announced the appointment of Elizabeth M. Thornton as Director of the Office of Program Operations (OPO). Ms. Thornton currently serves as Deputy Legal Counsel at EEOC, a position she has held since September 1990.

Chairman Casellas said, "It is with great pleasure that I appoint Ms. Thornton to direct the operations of the field. I believe her outstanding experience and her dedication to the mission of the agency will serve her well in her new capacity. I know that she will play an integral role in our efforts to reinvent the agency." He added, "It is a pleasure to appoint someone with such an exceptional commitment to equal opportunity for all."

Chairman Casellas noted further that "Ms. Thornton's appointment was fitting acknowledgement of her outstanding service to the agency." Ms. Thornton brings an extraordinary background to this position, which she has accumulated in her 25 years of experience in enforcing civil rights laws.

Elizabeth M. Thornton began her remarkable career at EEOC in 1970 as a GS-7 level front-line investigator in the then Washington District Office. Within a year she was selected to participate in the Management Intern Program, a federal program to provide management training opportunities for government employees exhibiting significant potential. Ms. Thornton's two-year rotation consisted of several assignments at EEOC headquarters, including positions in the Executive Director's office, the Office of Compliance's National Investigations Division and its National Conciliations Division.

While working in the Office of Compliance, Ms. Thornton also served as a union representative on the team that negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement with EEOC management.

Ms. Thornton eventually returned to the Washington Field Office as an Investigative Supervisor at the GS-13 level. In 1975, she entered the National Law Center at the George Washington University. Ms. Thornton received her law degree in 1979, attending school at night while she maintained her full time position with the EEOC. During that period, she served in a number of headquarters positions, including Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Field Services (forerunner of OPO), Special Assistant to the Acting Executive Director, and finally served as Special Assistant to Acting Chairman Ethel Bent Walsh.

The only break in Ms. Thornton's service with the EEOC came in 1977 when she joined the Office of Revenue Sharing in the Department of Treasury. There she continued her work in civil rights by enforcing anti-discrimination provisions governing the use of Revenue Sharing funds by state and local governments.

Ms. Thornton returned to EEOC headquarters in 1978 as Special Assistant to Commissioner Walsh. When the Commissioner's term expired, she resumed her work in the Office of Field Services and was eventually promoted to Deputy Director of that office. When the Office of Legal Counsel was created in 1982, Ms. Thornton served as the first Associate Legal Counsel for Coordination and Guidance Services. Since September 1990, she has served as Deputy Legal Counsel, as well as Acting Legal Counsel from July 1993 to October 1994.

In 1994, Ms. Thornton received the Presidential Rank Award as Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service for sustained accomplishments in management of programs in the U.S. Government.

In addition to her law degree, Ms. Thornton holds a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Howard University.

Ms. Thornton will assume the OPO directorship on September 1, 1995. Established in 1982, OPO is responsible for managing EEOC's administrative enforcement programs, including the agency's charge resolution process. Noting the fundamental importance of OPO, Chairman Casellas said, "everyone familiar with EEOC knows that the success of the agency is largely dependent upon the Office of Program Operations. I am confident that Ms. Thornton will provide the leadership necessary to successfully implement our new charge process and the alternative dispute resolution program."

EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

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