On the heels of a successful first day of the 2021 ILG National Conference, attendees were treated to an in-person morning keynote speech from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Charlotte Burrows to kick-off the second day of the conference.

Chair Burrows recognized in her opening remarks the current challenges facing our nation can sometimes seem insurmountable, but noted they likewise

present all of us with an opportunity to do better.

While noting the Commission’s commitment to the six national enforcement priorities from the Agency’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, Chair Burrows dedicated the majority of her address to two additional areas: (1) combatting systemic racial discrimination and (2) the civil rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With respect to the first area, Chair Burrows noted that addressing systemic discrimination has bipartisan support and is not just about identifying and addressing individual acts, but also focusing on broader practices  and “cultures of exclusion.”

In addressing the impact of COVID-19 on our country, Chair Burrows emphasized that “it is not just a health crisis, it is a civil rights crisis” given the pandemic’s effects on women, women of color and women with children.

Chair Burrows also touched briefly on the landmark Supreme Court case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which resolved the question of whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity with “a resounding yes.”  Despite this, she noted that “this will continue to be an evolving issue.”

In her closing remarks, Chair Burrows made sure to address the issue of pay discrimination, remarking that

pay discrimination has been hard to fight because it is so hard to find.

She recognized that lack of access to pay data has been a longstanding gap of the Agency and reminded the audience of the EEOC’s collection of pay data for the first time last year.  She confirmed the Agency is awaiting the results of the current study of the collected pay data and looks forward hearing from stakeholders about how to best “address the issue.”

As her speech came to its conclusion, Chair Burrows stated we “must protect the rights of all Americans” and believes “together we can finish the job.”  She closed by saying she is looking forward to a productive partnership with the NILG and answered a few questions from the audience, including one asked by former OFCCP Director Craig Leen.