Deena Zaru, CNN, July 1, 2017
Civil rights and LGBT activists say they are concerned about President Donald Trump’s nomination Thursday of Eric Dreiband to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division because of his work defending major corporations and others against discrimination lawsuits.
Dreiband, a labor attorney in Washington, D.C., who served as general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under George W. Bush, has represented such companies as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in an age discrimination case, Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, CVS Pharmacy in an employee severance agreement lawsuit brought by the EEOC, and Abercrombie & Fitch in a Supreme Court case involving a Muslim woman who was not hired by the company because she wore a headscarf.
The nomination of Dreiband, an attorney with Jones Day whose partners included White House Counsel Donald McGahn, serves to undermine “ fundamental civil rights priorities,” the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement Thursday.
“Dreiband has devoted most of his career to defending corporations in employment discrimination cases and advocating for weaker antidiscrimination protections in the workplace,” the statement said. “He also has a troubling lack of experience, having done no significant work in other issue areas central to the Division’s mission, including urgent priorities like voting rights and policing reform.”
Vanita Gupta, who led the department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now heads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement: “Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws. They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”
Washington attorney Leslie Silverman, who worked closely with Dreiband at the EEOC, affirmed the nominee’s belief in the country’s civil rights laws in an phone interview with CNN on Friday, saying that “when people are critical of Eric and civil rights, they should take a look at what he did” because his record “stands for itself.”