Contact Form

    News Details

    Turf war between federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and California’s Civil Rights Department
    • April 27, 2023

    California is at war with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This fight has nothing to do with a misbehaving big business or a tech titan. Rather, it’s a bureaucratic turf war caused by the state’s Civil Rights Department (CRD).  

    The CRD, known until about nine months ago as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, is straightforwardly tasked with enforcing the state’s civil rights laws. Despite the benevolent name and mission, it’s better known as a rogue agency, more focused on media attention and agitation against big companies, including Cisco, Disney, Riot Games, and Tesla. 

    Case in point: The present turf war with the feds, triggered by CRD’s decision to step between Activision Blizzard, a video game company, and the EEOC. Several years ago, the company had reached an agreement with the EEOC to pay $18 million to settle claims that its employees had been subjected to sexual harassment and other workplace violations of federal law. 

    But before the terms of a September 2021 consent decree could be carried out, the California CRD hired two outside law firms and stepped into the legal fray, claiming it was better positioned than the EEOC to pursue relief for California victims. 

    Movies and television typically show the FBI or some other federal agency swooping in and stealing investigations from the local authorities. Reality, at least in this instance, is somewhat different. 

    Stung by the CRD’s aggressive tactics, Activision fought back, filing a lawsuit in December against the department to stop its “unlawful efforts to hide its media assault on the Company and the Company’s court-approved settlement with the” EEOC. The lawsuit also alleges the CRD “​​deliberately unleashed a hurricane of hostile media coverage against [Activision] based on malicious and knowingly false assertions” and “worked with activists who contributed to the CRD’s media war.”

    The Activision suit says this is part of a pattern in which the CRD follows a “deliberate strategy” when it brings “cases against companies across California.” It further alleges that the CRD and its employees, including Director Kevin Kish and its then-Chief Counsel Janette Wipper, who was subsequently fired, engaged in a systemic campaign to “overwhelm” the company through “off-the-record media briefing” and leaks. 

    All of it was in violation of the CRD’s own stated “policy not to speak to the media about ongoing matters.”

    An amicus brief filed in federal court before the state lawsuit was brought complains that the CRD’s effort to crash Activision’s federal settlements directly interferes “with the policies promoted by Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act – which makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against someone because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin – and that “it is not the desire to prevent discrimination that animates CRD’s appeal.” 

    Related Articles

    Opinion |

    John Phillips: London Breed could be on Newsom’s shortlist if Sen. Feinstein steps down

    Opinion |

    Chad Bianco’s Keystone Cops lose 60 pounds of meth

    Opinion |

    Letters to the editor: Why did the business section uncritically spotlight a radical leftist?

    Opinion |

    Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified trustees OK creepy plan to censor books

    Opinion |

    The unexpected consequences of tobacco bans: bonds, taxes, police, and more

    The CRD even “admits that it also has its own interest at heart,” the brief contends—and the interests of its legal partners. Unlike the EEOC, which used staff attorneys to pursue the case, “CRD has retained private law firms that regularly pursue class actions on a contingency basis to obtain large fee awards.”

    The attorneys at those private firms are among what journalist Matt Taibbi has called the “Lawyers Who Ate California.” In a withering multi-part series that touches on the CRD dispute, Taibbi chronicled one “​​of the bitterest bureaucratic turf wars this country has seen.” Taibbi marvels that, as recently as 2017, the CRD “was an agency with traditionally more modest aims, a bane of slumlords and strip club owners that took thousands of calls a year and litigated only in the rarest of cases.” But it soon became a reckless enterprise.

    The Civil Rights Department is not the only governmental authority in California that sees businesses as deep wells of dollars to be taxed and fined or regulated into submission. Companies have noticed this and have been fleeing for years to states where the business environment is less hostile. The flight will continue until the CRD and other agents of government “service” are pulled back by policymakers who have noticed the California model is failing.

    Kerry Jackson is a freelance writer living in California. He was an editorial writer at Investor’s Business Daily for 18 years.

    ​ Orange County Register