The California Fair Employment and Housing Commission is being absorbed into the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Today I was one of a small group of attorneys who participated in a conference call with Anna Caballero, California’s Secretary of State and Consumer Services, and Phyllis Cheng, Director of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). One of the purposes of the call was to inform stakeholders of the future of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) and the DFEH. In essence, as the way things are headed, soon the FEHC will no longer exist, and its role will be incorporated into a shielded division within the DFEH. The actual impact on employees and employers may be relatively minor, but this structural change is fairly significant. If you have any questions, input and/or feedback you would like me to pass along to Director Cheng, please let me know.
Here is a summary of the information discussed during the conference call (I thank Director Cheng for providing me this summary and for allowing me to share it):
Governor’s 2012/13 Proposed Budget:
- The State of California continues to face a $9.2 billion structural deficit.
- The Governor’s proposed budget plan includes important reforms. It improves government efficiency and pays down debt. It reorganizes state government to make it more efficient and saves tax dollars by consolidating or eliminating functions.
- The Governor proposes to eliminate the [FEHC]. The Budget includes a decrease of $579,000 ($459,000 General Fund) and 2.5 positions as a result of the elimination of the stand-alone [FEHC] that handles adjudication of employment and housing discrimination cases. Adjudication of employment and housing discrimination cases would be handled by a separate and distinct division of the [DFEH] effectively eliminating the stand-alone [FEHC] and consolidating workload. The DFEH would receive 1.5 positions from the FEHC consolidation as well as the portion of the Attorney General’s cost for defending writ actions. The Department would absorb the rest of the [FEHC’s] functions. The savings to the State would be: $391,000 in 2012/13; and $784,000 in 2013/14 and ongoing.
- A trailer bill from the Department of Finance with specific language to carry out the Governor’s plan is forthcoming.
Possible Implementation Plan for the Governor’s Proposal:
- Adjudicatory Function: The [DFEH] currently operates a “separate and distinct division” in its Mediation Division that is behind a firewall and shielded from the rest of the DFEH. To employment the Governor’s proposal, the DFEH would put the [FEHC’s] adjudicatory function behind the confidential firewall of this Division and would rename it the “Hearing and Mediation Division.”
- Regulatory Function: Under its existing authority, the [DFEH] could establish a permanent DFEH Advisory Committee that would be codified in its procedural regulations. The proposed Advisory Committee would consist of a balanced group of plaintiff and defense attorneys with expertise in fair employment and housing law, along with representatives from the EEOC and HUD, to advise the DFEH on promulgation of regulations that interpret the FEHA, Unruh Civil Rights Act, Disabled Persons Act and Ralph Civil Rights Act.