FacultyFaculty/Author Profile
Phyllis W. Cheng

Phyllis W. Cheng

State of California, State and Consumer Services Agency
Director, Department of Fair Employment and Housing
Elk Grove, CA, USA

Phyllis W. Cheng is Director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Appointed in January 2008 and unanimously confirmed by the Senate, she heads the largest state civil rights agency in the nation. The DFEH takes in, investigates, conciliates, mediates and prosecutes discrimination complaints against employers, housing providers and businesses throughout California. The Department enforces the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Unruh Civil Rights Act, Disabled Persons Act and Ralph Civil Rights Act.  Under her direction, Ms. Cheng has transformed the Department into a proactive and innovative agency. The Department has automated appointment and right-to-sue systems, established telephone intake to be user friendly, and launched a cost-effective cloud-based case management system on time and within budget; developed a case grading system to better target resources; re-established a special investigations unit to address systemic discrimination; achieved an historic multi-million-dollar class action settlement regarding family leave and other group/class actions; launched a new attorney-staffed dispute resolution division to encourage out-of-court settlements; sponsored legislation and promulgated the Department's inaugural procedural regulations; partnered with numerous stakeholders to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the FEHA and other ongoing events; conducted outreach in person and via mass and social media to hundreds of communities statewide; developed partnerships with the University of California, Irvine and Davis, Schools of Law and other universities/colleges to train future civil rights lawyers and investigators; and introduced new resources to educate the public on civil rights compliance.  In the process, the Department has reduced 50 percent of its overhead, while promoting training, retaining jobs and providing upward mobility for its staff.  As a result, the Department's civil rights mission has flourished, customer service has improved, productivity has doubled, and substantial savings have been returned to the State's general fund.  The State Bar of California named Ms. Cheng the 2012 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year.


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