Phyllis W. Cheng, Esq.

Profile

Phyllis W. Cheng, Esq. has excelled at every stage of her career. For nearly seven years, Ms. Cheng was Director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the largest state civil rights agency in the United States. As Director, Ms. Cheng oversaw six and seven-figure settlements, including the largest settlements in DFEH history. She was also a Senior Appellate Court Attorney; a Deputy Attorney General with the Civil Rights Enforcement Section of the California Department of Justice; a partner with DLA Piper’s employment practice; and a two-term Commissioner and Vice-Chair of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

Recognized as the 2012 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, Ms. Cheng brings her unwavering work ethic and extensive experience to her dispute resolution practice. As a private mediator and as a panelist for the U.S. District Court and the California Court of Appeal, Ms. Cheng has settled significant matters in the areas of employment, including discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; wage and hour; class actions; civil rights; attorney’s fees; housing discrimination; and public accommodations and disability access. For more information, including case summaries, please visit her website at www.mediate.work.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

  • Employment
  • Wage & Hour
  • Class Actions
  • Civil Rights
  • Housing
  • Public Accommodations & Disability Access
  • Education
  • Attorney’s Fees

MEDIATION & ARBITRATION EXPERIENCE

  • Private Mediator (2016-Present)
  • United States District Court, Central District of California, Mediation Panel (2016-Present)
  • California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Mediation Program (2016-Present)
  • Certified Arbitrator, State Bar of California Committee on Mandatory Fee Arbitration; Los Angeles County Bar Association Dispute Resolution Services, Inc.; and National Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., (1994-1999)
  • Settlement Officer, Los Angeles Superior and Municipal Courts (1998-1999)

LEGAL EXPERIENCE

  • Partner, DLA Piper LLP (US) (2014-2016)
  • Director, California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (2008-2014)
    • Appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, retained by Governor Jerry Brown, and unanimously confirmed by the Senate
  • Of Counsel, Littler Mendelson, P.C. (2007-2008)
  • Senior Appellate Court Attorney, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District (2003-2007)
  • Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice (1999-2003)
    • Civil Rights Enforcement Section, Attorney General’s Office
  • Commissioner & Vice Chair, California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (1993-1999)
    • Appointed and reappointed by Governor Pete Wilson
  • Attorney at Law, Solo Practice (1995-1999)
  • Associate, Hadsell & Stormer, Inc. (1993-1995)

EDUCATION

  • J.D., Southwestern University School of Law (1993)
  • Ph.D. in Planning, University of Southern California (1987)
  • M.Ed. & Teaching Credential, University of California Los Angeles (1976)
  • B.A. in Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, University of California Los Angeles (1974)

AWARDS

  • 2012 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, State Bar of California Public Law Section
  • 1993 Annual CLE Essay Contest, American Law Institute American Bar Association
  • 1992 Writing Competition, State Bar of California Labor & Employment Law Section
  • 1992 Writing Competition, Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorneys’ Association

MEMBERSHIPS AND APPOINTMENTS

  • State Bar of California
  • United States District Court, Central, Eastern, Southern, and Northern Districts of California
  • United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Southern California Mediation Association (2016-2017)
  • Private Counsel Panel (Criminal, Juvenile Delinquency and Dependency Appeals), California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District (1994-1999)
  • California Lawyers Association (formerly State Bar of California), Labor & Employment Law Section (2003-Present)

LANGUAGES

Chinese (Cantonese, Shanghai, Mandarin dialects)

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

As a leading scholar in California employment law, Ms. Cheng has made over 500 keynote, panel, webinar, and other multimedia presentations to bar, business, human resources, employer, employee, housing, realtor, apartment, homeowner, condominium association, mediation, civil rights, education, private and public sector groups.

PUBLICATIONS

Ms. Cheng is a prolific writer and has been published numerous times in various law treatises, legal publications, and law journals. She is the Co-Editor of California Fair Housing & Public Accommodations, part of the Rutter Group California Civil Litigation Series, and Attorney Editor of several chapters of Employment Litigation, the Rutter Group California Practice Guide. For a complete list of her publications, please visit her website at www.mediate.work.

Representative Cases

Employment Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

  • Action by 58-year-old foreman with 20 years of tenure alleging that his former employer, a manufacturer, wrongfully terminated him and because of his age and disability, and retaliated against him for taking family and medical leave for his own serious health condition. The employer alleged that the employee failed to perform and business necessity required his dismissal. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by foreclosure specialist alleging that her former employer, a financial services company, wrongfully terminated her because she had taken family and medical leave as well as disability leave for surgeries related to her serious cancer-related genetic condition, and because she had complained about unpaid commissions. The employer alleged that the employee’s job was eliminated as part of a layoff. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by sales customer service representative alleging that her former employer, an auto parts business, discriminated against and harassed her because of her sex and sexual orientation, retaliated against her for having complained, failed to prevent discrimination and harassment, and committed various torts. The employer alleged that the employee did not suffer adverse job action and had failed to report her complaints to human resources. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by district manager alleging his former employer, an auto parts business, discriminated and retaliated against him for taking family and medical leave for the birth of his child and wrongfully terminated him. The employer alleged the employee failed to perform. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by cook alleging her former employer, a restaurant, retaliated against her on account of her association with a family member’s disability, and for complaining about health and safety as well as meal and rest break violations. The restaurant alleged the employee had elected to quit her job to appear on a televised cooking show and had no return rights. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by facilities manager alleging her former employer, a university, discriminated and harassed her because of her race and sex, retaliated against her for complaining, constructively terminated her, and committed other compensation violations and torts against her. The university alleged the employee failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.

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Wage and Hour

  • Appeal by former employer, a solar company, challenging an order denying its motion to compel arbitration of a wage-and-hour and Private Attorney General’s Act (PAGA) action brought by its former employee, an installation supervisor. The employer alleged the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts PAGA. The employee alleged the FAA does not preempt PAGA. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Class action by personal bankers alleging their employer, a national bank, committed wage and hour violations. The bank alleged it had fulfilled its duty to provide meal periods as a matter of law. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.

Class Action: Employment, Wage and Hour, Civil Rights

  • Class action by weld shop supervisor alleging that his former employer and its successor, both construction companies, discriminated against and harassed him and others similarly situated because of his disability and race, retaliated against him for having complained, failed to investigate his complaints, failed to prevent discrimination and harassment, and violated various wage-and-hour provisions. The former employer had dissolved its business, but its insurance policy was still in effect for the period in question. The successor employer alleged that plaintiff was never its employee. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Class action by personal bankers alleging their employer, a national bank, committed wage and hour violations. The bank alleged it had fulfilled its duty to provide meal periods as a matter of law. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Class action by a deaf undocumented immigrant with a criminal record and a non-profit organization alleging that the U.S. government and a municipality had discriminated against deaf detainees by failing to provide American Sign Language interpreters. The detainee alleged she was not accommodated during her five months incarceration in city jail, where she underwent oral surgery without informed consent and could not communicate readily with her lawyers. The government agencies alleged that their policies and procedures were in compliance with applicable law. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Class action by 18 to 21-year-old, disabled incarcerated inmates in county jails alleging failure of multiple state, regional and local agencies to provide them with special education required by federal law. The public agencies alleged their policies and procedures comply with applicable law. This case commenced in 2008, was removed to federal court, and had been appealed at various levels, including the California Supreme Court. Portions of the class action were settled over nine years. Fully resolved by mediator’s proposal.

Attorneys’ Fees

  • Appeal by former employer, a bank, challenging an arbitrator’s award of over $300,000 in plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees when the employee had lost on 13 out of 14 employment claims, awarding $100 out of her $5 million demand. The employer alleged that any attorneys’ fees should be commensurate with the limited arbitration award. The employee alleged that courts must defer to the arbitrator’s discretion. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by a group of deaf teachers in a school for the deaf alleging their employer, a school district, failed to provide effective communication devices and reasonable accommodation under federal and state public accommodations and disability access laws. Following partial settlement on the case in chief, the parties disputed plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. The school district alleged the attorneys’ fees demand was excessive. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.

Housing Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

  • Action by tenants alleging landlord and management company discriminated against families with children under federal and state fair housing and public accommodation laws. The landlord and management company alleged their policy of no loitering or playing in common areas was directed to all tenants, not only families with children. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by tenants alleging landlord discriminated, harassed and retaliated against families with children under federal and state fair housing and public accommodations law, violated their rights of privacy, and engaged in unfair business practices. The landlord alleged its policies were neutral and tenants were evicted for failure to pay rent. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.

Public Accommodations and Disability Access

  • Class action by a deaf undocumented immigrant with a criminal record and a non-profit organization alleging that the U.S. government and a municipality had discriminated against deaf detainees by failing to provide American Sign Language interpreters. The detainee alleged she was not accommodated during her five months incarceration in city jail, where she underwent oral surgery without informed consent and could not readily communicate with her lawyers. The government agencies alleged that their policies and procedures were in compliance with applicable law. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Class action by 18 to 21-year-old, disabled incarcerated inmates in county jails alleging failure of multiple state, regional and local agencies to provide them with special education required by federal law. The public agencies alleged their policies and procedures comply with applicable law. This case commenced in 2008, was removed to federal court, and had been appealed at various levels, including the California Supreme Court. Portions of the class action were settled over nine years. Fully resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by blind consumer alleging a restaurant denied access to her, her companions, and her guide dog in violation of federal and state disability access and public accommodations laws. The restaurant alleged that no dogs are allowed without exception. Resolved following mediation.
  • Action by disabled consumer in wheelchair alleging a print shop business violated federal and state public accommodations and disability access laws on a non-compliant handicapped parking space and signage. The business alleged it had corrected the non-conformance and the consumer never entered the establishment. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by disabled consumer in wheelchair alleging flight school discriminated against her for her disability and failed to provide any conforming handicapped parking space and signage for her to take a free test flight. The flight school alleged it did not have control over the common areas in its rented space and any nonconformance had been corrected. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by disabled consumer in wheelchair alleging auto shop discriminated against him for his disability by blocking access to handicapped parking at the premises. The business alleged it did not have control over the common areas in its rented space and any nonconformance had been corrected. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by disabled passenger in wheelchair alleging public transit authority failed to comply with disability access and public accommodations laws, and committed various torts when she was injured while boarding a bus. The public transit authority alleged it had complied with applicable law and the passenger was not injured. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.
  • Action by disabled passenger in wheelchair alleging shuttle bus company failed to comply with disability access and public accommodations laws, and denied him and his companion use of the public transit. The company alleged it did provide service to the passenger and his companion on the next available shuttle bus. Resolved by mediator’s proposal.

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