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                   The 8th Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference:                 Applied Feminism and Work

Chai Feldblum picture.

   2015 Keynote Speaker            
Chai Feldblum, EEOC Commissioner

As the nation emerged from the recession, work and economic security are front and center in our national policy debates. Women earn less than men, and the new economic landscape impacts men and women differently.  At the same time, women are questioning whether to "Lean In" or "Lean Out," and what it means to “have it all.” 

The 2015 conference built on these discussions and explored an intersectional approach to feminist legal theory. It addressed not only the premise of seeking justice for all people on behalf of their gender but also the interlinked systems of oppression based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, immigration status, disability, and geographical and historical context.

Papers explored the following questions: What impact has feminist legal theory had on the workplace? How does work impact gender and vice versa?  How might feminist legal theory respond to issues such as stalled immigration reform, economic inequality, pregnancy accommodation, the low-wage workforce, women’s access to economic opportunities, family-friendly work environments, paid sick and family leave, decline in unionization, and low minimum wage rates?  What sort of support should society and law provide to ensure equal employment opportunities that provide for security for all?  How do law and feminist legal theory conceptualize the role of the state and the private sector in relation to work?  Are there rights to employment and what are their foundations?  How will the recent Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn decisions impact economic opportunities for women?  How will the new EEOC guidance on pregnancy accommodation and the Young v. UPS upcoming Supreme Court decision affect rights of female workers?  

EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum gave the keynote address. Prior to her appointment to the EEOC, she was a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center where she has taught since 1991. At Georgetown, she founded the Law Center's Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic, which represented clients such as Catholic Charities USA, the National Disability Rights Network, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.  She also founded and co-directed Workplace Flexibility 2010, a policy enterprise focused on finding common ground between employers and employees on workplace flexibility issues.

As Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union from 1988 to 1991, Commissioner Feldblum played a leading role in helping to draft and negotiate the ground-breaking Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Later, as a law professor representing the Epilepsy Foundation, she was equally instrumental in drafting and negotiating the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

Commissioner Feldblum has also worked to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, was one of the drafters of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and is the first openly lesbian Commissioner of the EEOC. She clerked for Judge Frank Coffin of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and for Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun after receiving her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She received her B.A. degree from Barnard College.