Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

Fair Employment and Housing Director Phyllis Cheng '93 to be Honored by California State Bar May 31, 2012
Fair Employment and Housing Director Phyllis Cheng '93 to be Honored by California State Bar

Phyllis Cheng '93, Director of California's Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH), the nation's largest state civil rights agency, has been named the "2012 Public Lawyer of the Year" by the State Bar of California. The Public Lawyer of the Year Award is given annually by the Public Law Section of the State Bar of California at its Annual Meeting to a public lawyer who deserves special recognition because of outstanding public service. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye will present the award to Ms. Cheng at this year's State Bar 85th Annual Meeting at a reception on Friday, October 12, in Monterey, CA.

"Director Cheng's dedication to consumer protection is evident throughout her work," said State and Consumer Services Secretary Anna Caballero. "She's a true leader within our agency and throughout the state of California."

The DFEH is charged with enforcing California laws that prohibit employment and housing discrimination, public accommodation discrimination, hate violence, and discrimination against disabled persons in public places. It takes in, investigates, conciliates, mediates and prosecutes about 20,000 discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints per year.

Prior to being appointed Director, Ms. Cheng served as an attorney at the firm of Hadsell & Stormer, Commissioner and Vice Chair of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission, a Deputy Attorney General on civil rights enforcement; a research attorney at Division Seven of the Second District California Court of Appeal; and Of Counsel at the firm of Littler Mendelson. Before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Cheng founded a citizens' commission to address sex discrimination and was Title IX Coordinator at the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she monitored a Title VII consent decree promoting women into administration. She was responsible for the passage of California's version of the Title IX law in 1982. Ms. Cheng also worked as a researcher at RAND Corporation and other think tanks, was an adjunct faculty member at the UCLA Graduate School of Education, and directed a mentoring project for at-risk minority girls at the University of Southern California. She received her B.A. and M.Ed. from UCLA, her Ph.D. from USC, and her J.D. from Southwestern Law School. Born on the 4th of July, she is an immigrant from Hong Kong and a native speaker of Chinese in three dialects.

An Alumni Q&A interview with Ms. Cheng is available here. For more information about the Public Lawyer of the Year reception, contact the State Bar's Public Law Section at (415) 538-2248.