Enforcing Federal Law

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission member visits ILR
Jenny Yang
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Jenny Yang, A&S ’92, of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) met with ILR students and faculty March 6 to discuss her career and the role of EEOC in enforcing discrimination laws.

The EEOC is a bipartisan commission comprised of five presidentially appointed members.

Its role is to enforce federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, according to the agency.

It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Yang was sworn in as a commissioner in 2013. She served as chair of the commission from Sept. 1, 2014, to Jan. 22. Her service ends in July.

Lecturing in ILR Associate Professor Kate Griffith’s Labor and Employment Law class on March 6, she described the work of the 2,200 people who work in 53 EEOC offices across the country. 

Griffith said Yang told the class about recent cases of religious discrimination, race discrimination and the EEOC’s work on the gender pay gap.

“We also heard about the EEOC’s efforts, while Yang was Commission chair, to apply employment discrimination protections to discriminatory behavior based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Griffith said.

“Commissioner Yang’s stories gave students a window into what law enforcement in the employment discrimination area looks like in practice. She also talked about how model employers can pave the way for more diverse and inclusive workplaces.”

“Not only did we all learn more about the EEOC’s efforts in recent years, we also learned about Commissioner Yang’s personal story -- how she went from being a student , to public interest law, to the private bar and, finally, to leadership in the public sector at the EEOC.”

“For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of the ILR School are the many opportunities to hear from private and public sector leaders in the labor and employment law field,” Griffith said.

Yang was a partner of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. She joined the firm in 2003, and she has represented thousands of employees across the country in numerous complex civil rights and employment actions.

Before joining Cohen Milstein, Yang served as a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s, Employment Litigation Section, where she enforced federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment by state and local government employers from 1998 to 2003.

Before that, she worked at the National Employment Law Project to enforce the workplace rights of garment workers. Yang clerked for the Honorable Edmund Ludwig on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Commissioner Yang was back on Cornell’s campus to attend a meeting of the President’s Council of Cornell Women, an alumni leadership organization working to enhance the involvement of women students, faculty, staff and alumnae within Cornell’s many communities.