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Press Release 11-09-2015

EEOC Mourns Loss of Former Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien

WASHINGTON -- It is with great sadness that EEOC mourns the loss of former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien, who passed away on Monday, November 9, 2015.

Berrien, a native of the District of Columbia, was sworn in as EEOC Chair on April 7, 2010. In nominating her for the post, President Barack Obama said she "has spent her entire career fighting to give voice to underrepresented communities and protect our most basic rights." Berrien ended her tenure at EEOC on August 31, 2014.

"Chair Berrien's death is a tragic loss for the civil rights community for which she was a guiding light," said current EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. "Her dedication to public service made a difference in so many lives and left our nation more just."

During her tenure, Berrien focused on ensuring that EEOC had the tools and resources necessary to combat workplace discrimination. Investments she made in staffing, training, and technology enabled EEOC to hire front line staff, increase productivity, and reduce or maintain the inventory of pending charges. The agency accomplished all this despite challenges from declining resources, sequestration, and record numbers of charges of discrimination filed with its offices.

As a litigator, Berrien took special interest in the EEOC's systemic program and revitalized the program. During her term, the systemic investigations, conciliations, and litigation increased each year and became a significant part of the agency's work. Also during her term, EEOC won the largest award under the American with Disabilities Act and largest award in the agency's history-$240 million for the class of intellectually disabled men in EEOC v. Hill Country Farms.

While Berrien was Chair, the Commission issued its Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Other Related Matters. She also shepherded the passage of regulations concerning the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Disparate Impact and Reasonable Factors Other than Age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Berrien cared deeply about the agency's mission and its staff. In her numerous visits to EEOC offices around the country, she emphasized to every employee the importance of his or her work. Always one to lead by example, during the fiscal year 2013 sequestration, when the Commission furloughed career staff for a week and political appointees remained on salary, Berrien donated her pay to a federal employee assistance fund.

"Our hearts go out to Chair Berrien's family," said Yang. "We will honor her by building on the inspired legacy that she left us."

The White House today issued a statement by President Obama on the passing of Chair Berrien.