Joe Biden has fired EEOC general counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson. At least, he has tried to. I’m not sure he can.
Nominated in 2018, Gustafson, a respected attorney, was finally confirmed by the Senate in August 2019 for a term of four years. However, Biden asked her to cut short her tenure after only about a year and a half. When she refused, he ordered her firing.
To my knowledge, a changeover in administrations has never led to the firing of an EEOC general counsel. The first general counsel under whom I served at the EEOC, Abner Sibal, was appointed by Gerald Ford but continued to serve until December 1978, half way into the Jimmy Carter presidency.
Why is Biden breaking with precedent to oust Gustafson (or try to)? There is no evidence that she’s not adequately performing her job.
In fact, under her leadership, the EEOC has been quite active, filing 93 merits lawsuits in district court across the full range of actions prohibited by the anti-discrimination laws the Commission enforces. Gustafson’s office has resolved 165 lawsuits for a total monetary recovery of $196 million. I understand that this is the largest amount recovered by the EEOC through litigation during a comparable time period in the past 16 years.
What, then, is there to dislike about Gustafson? The only thing I can think of is her vigorous opposition to discrimination based on religion in the workplace which, in the context of one piece of EEOC litigation, has displeased LGBT activists.
Religious discrimination cases make up only five of the 93 merits cases the EEOC has filed under Gustafson. Clearly, her concern with religious discrimination is not crowding out litigation to combat other forms of unlawful discrimination.
Gustafson did establish a Religious Discrimination Work Group that hosted a series of listening sessions in which a diverse group of representatives, including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs, recommended ways the EEOC could improve its response to employees who experience religious discrimination. The report on the work of this group was posted on the EEOC’s website.
Almost immediately after Biden’s inauguration, the report and accompanying press release were removed from the website. Similarly, an 8-minute podcast on the Religious Discrimination Work Group’s listening sessions was removed. Now, Biden wants to remove Gustafson, herself.
I agree with the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s take on the firing of Gustafson:
By firing her, President Biden has once again signaled his administration’s deep-seated antipathy to religious liberty wherever such liberty clashes with the pet politics of Democrats. . . .
The decision to terminate Gustafson while simultaneously erasing the record of her work for religious liberty is a sure sign that Biden’s plans for national unity are nothing more than partisan politics masquerading as bipartisan consensus.