Trump Picks Lawyer Who Defended North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT HB2 as Civil Rights Division Head of the DOJ

Donald Trump has nominated Eric Dreiband to serve as the head of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a White House press release.

Dreiband currently works as attorney for the Washington-based firm Jones Day, where he represents companies involved in labor disputes. Dreiband also represented the University of North Carolina in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Lambda Legal who sued the university for complying with the state’s anti-LGBT HB 2 law.

In a separate case, Dreiband represented nonprofit organizations seeking religious exemptions from having to provide insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act and also argued against proposed legislation that would have allowed victims of gender and age discrimination to be compensated for their injury. 

Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, blasted Dreiband’s nomination. “Dreiband has devoted the vast majority of his career to defending corporations accused of employment discrimination. He has opposed important legislation to safeguard our civil rights,” Gupta said. “And he has no known experience in most of the Civil Rights Division’s core issue areas, such as voting rights, police reform, housing, education, and hate crimes. He is the wrong person for the job.”

Here’s what you should know about Dreiband:

  • Dreiband represented Abercrombie & Fitch, after the clothing retailer was sued in 2008 by Samantha Elauf, a Muslim teenager in Oklahoma, who charged that the company denied her a sales job because she wore a headscarf for religious purposes. Abercrombie & Fitch, which promotes a collegiate sex-and-bros aesthetic, argued that Elauf’s headscarf violated their “look policy.” The case eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 in Elauf’s favor. Elauf was backed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the civil rights office within the Department of Labor.
  • Dreiband was also part of the legal team that represented the University of North Carolina last year in its contentious showdown with the Justice Department over “HB2,” the state law that restricted transgender North Carolinians’ access to public restrooms and voided all LGBT protections throughout the state.
  • Dreiband defended R.J. Reynolds, America’s second-largest tobacco company, in an age-discrimination case that started in 2015. The plaintiff in the suit was denied a job with the company at age 49. He sued after learning, thanks to a whistleblower, that the company had hired a subcontractor to sift through resumés and discard “older” applicants. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court left a lower court’s narrow 6-5 decision intact — which was that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies only to people who are currently employed rather than seeking employment.
  • He also represented Bloomberg LP in a 2008 lawsuit that accused the company of discriminating against pregnant women by diminishing their pay and denying them promotions. Bloomberg won the case.
  • According to his law firm biography, Dreiband served in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, from 1997 to 2000, where he led the investigation and subsequent prosecution of a Clinton associate.

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