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Trump names temporary chairs for U.S. labor agencies

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has appointed Republican members of two federal labor agencies to serve as their acting chairs, an early signal of a shift to more business-friendly policies.

The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday said Trump had named Philip Miscimarra to the temporary role, one day after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that Victoria Lipnic had been named acting chair of the commission.

The NLRB oversees union elections and enforces a federal law protecting workers' rights to organize. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Under former President Barack Obama, both agencies were the target of fierce criticism from business groups and Republican officials.

Miscimarra and Lipnic, both Obama appointees, will temporarily replace Democrats who had chaired the agencies until Trump's permanent replacements are confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The EEOC and NLRB chairs make staffing decisions and have a key role in updating guidelines and setting agency priorities. The EEOC currently has one vacancy, and the NLRB has two.

Despite being Obama appointees, Lipnic and Miscimarra have routinely broken with their Democratic colleagues.

Miscimarra's many dissents in NLRB cases since his appointment in 2013 helped lay the foundation for claims by the business community that under Obama, the board baldly favored unions rather than promoting a balance between labor and management.

In 2012, Lipnic dissented in a landmark EEOC case in which the commission ruled for the first time that discrimination against gay workers is a form of unlawful sex bias.

She also objected to guidelines on pregnancy discrimination released by the commission in 2014, and regulations published the following year that made it easier for workers to sue for age discrimination.

Lipnic, who worked at the U.S. Department of Labor under President George W. Bush before joining the EEOC in 2010, said in a statement that she was honored by the appointment.

“I believe equal employment opportunity is critical to all Americans and to how we define ourselves as a nation," she said.

Miscimarra in a separate statement said his goal was "to foster stability and to apply the National Labor Relations Act in an even-handed manner that serves the interests of employees, employers and unions throughout the country.”

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)