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In what one defense attorney describes as an unexpected choice, President Donald Trump has nominated an Arlington, Virginia-based solo practitioner who has represented both defendants and plaintiffs to be general counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a four-year term.
The White House said Tuesday that Sharon Fast Gustafson, who practices in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, previously worked for four years in Washington, D.C., for Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day.
The White House statement said Ms. Gustafson was counsel for plaintiff Peggy Young in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service Inc. in which the court held the Atlanta-based package delivery company acted unlawfully in refusing to accommodate a pregnant part-time worker's lifting restriction while it did accommodate other workers' limitations.
The announcement said in 2016 the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association awarded Ms. Gustafson its Lawyer of the Year award “in recognition of outstanding dedication to Civil Rights Equality and Justice.”
Commenting on the appointment, which must be approved by the Senate, Gerald L. Maatman Jr., a partner with Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P. in Chicago, said, “It’s a curious or unexpected appointment insofar as her involvement in EEOC’s litigation seems to be fairly limited.”
Mr. Maatman said he believes most employers would have expected Mr. Trump to appoint someone who had spent the better part of his or her career dealing with government enforcement policy and litigation in terms of the EEOC.
Mr. Maatman said, “perhaps one way to look at it” is that Ms. Gustafson will bring “a fresh set of ideas” as someone “who has not been involved in that area of litigation.”
Mr. Trump previously named two other appointees to the EEOC.
The announcement says Ms. Gustafson and her husband live in Virginia and have nine children and 11 grandchildren.
A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated an Equal Pay Act lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Maryland’s insurance regulator on the basis male employees were paid more than women, in a divided opinion.