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Notre Dame de Namur University Hosts FEHA 50th Anniversary Forum

Belmont, CA, March 19, 2009 — Notre Dame de Namur University students will get a chance to learn what  the fight for employment and housing rights is all about when the NDNU hosts a Fair Employment and Housing Act 50th Anniversary Forum on March 25. Phyllis W. Cheng, Director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the largest state civil rights agency in the nation, will speak about youth in the workplace and religious discrimination.

The event, which will take place at 11 a.m. in the Ralston Hall Ballroom, is part of DFEH’s Civil Rights Year and the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the passage of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is one of the leading civil rights law in the United States. The law was enacted in 1959 as the Fair Employment Practices Act, five years before the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act. This act is enforced by the DFEH, which oversees all employment discrimination complaints, through investigation, conciliation, and prosecution. For the past 50 years, the DFEH has protected employment and housing rights, and it continues to work to level the playing field for all Californians.

Landmark accomplishments of the FEHA include upholding pregnancy protections and benefits (1987), establishing regulations for sexual harassment prevention training (1996), and the right of affirmed victims to obtain damages for emotional injury in race discrimination cases (2002). In addition, the Prudence Kay Poppink Act, an amendment to the FEHA, was passed in 2000, strengthening protections for individuals with disabilities.

“We are honored and excited to be a part of the FEHA 50th Anniversary Celebration,” said NDNU President Judith Maxwell Greig. “A concern for social justice is a cornerstone of the NDNU value system and that is what FEHA is concerned with.”

Phyllis W. Cheng, Director of the DFEH, appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, received her BA and M.Ed. degrees from UCLA, her Ph.D. degree from USC and her J.D. degree from Southwestern University School of Law. Prior to her current position she was of counsel to Littler Mendelson, a national employment and labor law firm representing employers, a senior appellate court attorney in the Second Appellate District of California, Division Seven. She has been a Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights Enforcement Section of the California Department of Justice and served two terms on the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission as an appointee of Governor Pete Wilson. She is an immigrant from Hong Kong and a native speaker of Chinese in three dialects.