State of evolution: Inside the DFEH

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) Director Phyllis W. Cheng on advancing civil rights

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) Director Phyllis W. Cheng

While a love of policy and a balanced legal background help make any good labor and employment lawyer better, California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) Director Phyllis W. Cheng's perseverance and dedication to justice for all have much deeper roots than that.

By her own account, Cheng was born on a midwife's kitchen table in Hong Kong during a typhoon that just so happened to take place on the Fourth of July. “You can say I was meant to be a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Cheng quips.

The legacy of the DFEH

The DFEH's official capacity is the protector and facilitator of California's civil rights laws. Not surprisingly, the primary law it protects is the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, but it also handles complaints related to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Disabled Persons Act and the Ralph Civil Rights Act.

Doing more with less

Although California undoubtedly ranks high on its civil rights efforts, until Governor Brown closed the budget deficit following a voter-supported sales tax increase in 2013, the state was plagued by tens of billions of dollars in budget shortfalls that meant painful furloughs for government agencies over the last few years. Despite such fiscal challenges, Cheng managed to improve a number of operations in her tenure with the DFEH, and in the process, set yet another standard for agency operation. Automation of complaint filing and reliance on new technologies have modernized the department and allowed it to slash operating costs even in lean times.

Executive Editor

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Chris DiMarco

Chris DiMarco, Executive Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, has a background in multimedia production with previous involvement in projects in which he developed and created content...

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