Executive Staff Biographies
- Director: Kevin Kish
- Chief Deputy Director: Joan Keegan
- Chief of Dispute Resolution: Annmarie Billotti
- Chief Counsel: Jon M. Ichinaga
- Deputy Director of Administration: DeLesa Swanigan
- Chief of Enforcement: Mary Bonilla
- Chief of Public Policy and Education: Nelson Chan
- Deputy Director of Communications: Fahizah Alim
- Deputy Director of Executive Programs: Holly A. Thomas
- Chief Information Officer: PJ Bajwa
Kevin Kish, a noted civil rights attorney, was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on December 29, 2014 to be director of Californiaís Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the largest state civil rights agency in the nation.
Kish was previously with Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, one of the nationís premier public interest law firms. As director of the firmís Employment Rights Project, Kish led the firmís employment litigation, policy, and outreach initiatives. His cases focused on combatting violations of minimum labor standards in low-wage industries and human trafficking for forced labor. He led trial and appellate teams in employment and trafficking suits, including prevailing in the first civil case to reach a jury verdict under the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Kish developed and teaches an employment-law clinic at Loyola Law School and frequently speaks on issues related to poverty, employment, human trafficking and human rights.Back to top
Chief Deputy Director
Joan Keegan was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on December 29, 2014 to be Chief Deputy Director at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Ms. Keegan has served in executive or senior-management level positions in State government for over 16 years. Prior to coming to DFEH, she served as the Assistant Executive Officer at the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Deputy Director for the Policy and Planning Division at the Department of Technology Services and in various positions at the Franchise Tax Board including as the Director of the Corporate Planning Bureau and the Chief Information Security and Privacy Officer. Ms. Keegan began her career in State service as a Senior Policy and Fiscal Analyst with the Legislative Analystís Office. She graduated with highest honors from UC Berkeley with degrees in Political Economy and German.Back to top
Annmarie Billotti, Esq.
Chief of Dispute Resolution
Annmarie Billotti is the Chief of Dispute Resolution for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in Elk Grove, CA where she established and manages the Departmentís Dispute Resolution Division.† Ms. Billotti was formerly also responsible for the DFEHís legislation and†regulation and public affairs units,†and†formerly served as Acting Director,†Chief of Mediation, Acting Chief Counsel, Volunteer Mediation Program Coordinator and EEO Officer.† Before assuming her responsibilities at DFEH headquarters in 2007, Ms. Billotti held the position of Senior Staff Counsel in Oakland, obtaining significant remedies for complainants in employment and housing discrimination cases litigated in state court and before the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC). Of note is Ms. Billottiís litigation of the matter of Dept. of Fair Employ. & Hous. v. SASCO Electric (Scherl) (June 22, 2007) FEHC Precedential Dec. No. 07-02-P [2005 WL 5672426 (Cal.F.E.H.C.)], a pregnancy discrimination case in which the FEHC awarded nearly $125,000 plus front pay and job reinstatement to the complainant and a $25,000 administrative fine to the State General Fund. The FEHCís decision was upheld in SASCO Electric v. Cal. Fair Employ. & Hous. Com. (Scherl) (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 532.
Prior to joining the DFEH in 2002, Ms. Billotti spent three years with a private firm litigating employment and civil rights cases and two years with the Santa Clara County Bar Association Law Foundationís Mental Health Advocacy Project.
Ms. Billotti holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell University and a Juris Doctor with highest honors from Golden Gate University School of Law. She has served on the Executive Committee of the State Barís Labor and Employment Law Section and was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the California Labor and Employment Law Review, where she remains on the Editorial Board. Ms. Billotti also was a member of the steering committee of the State Barís Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Subsection.
- Co-panelist, Annual Update of Labor & Employment Law, 16th Annual Labor and Employment Law Section Public Sector Conference, 2010, Sacramento, California.
- Co-panelist, Nuts and Bolts of the DFEH Administrative Process, Labor and Employment Law Section Annual Meeting 2009, Berkeley, California.
- Co-panelist, Public Sector Law Update, Labor and Employment Law Section Annual Meeting 2009, Berkeley, California.
- Co-author, California Layoff Basics Ė Two Perspectives, MCLE Self-Study, California Labor & Employment Law Review, Vol. 23, Issue No. 4, July 2009, pages 1, 14-16.
- Co-presenter, Summary of Judicial Review of FEHA Cases Litigated Before the Fair Employment and Housing Commission, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Training, February and March 2009, Los Angeles & Ventura, California.
- Co-panelist, Inside ScoopóWhat You Really Need to Know about DFEH/EEOC Investigations, Labor and Employment Law Section Annual Meeting 2006, San Jose, California.
- Co-author, A 10-Year Retrospective of Significant Cases under the FEHA, MCLE Self-Study, California Labor & Employment Law Review, Vol. 20, Issue No. 3, June 2006, pages 1, 15-20.
Jon M. Ichinaga, Esq.
Jon M. Ichinaga is the Chief Counsel, the prosecutorial arm of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.Immediately prior to becoming Chief Counsel, Jon Ichinaga was Special Projects Counsel | Mediator in the Mediation Division, where he successfully settled many DFEH employment and housing complaints. In addition, he has skillfully designed and taught clinical courses on civil rights practice at the DFEH-UCI School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, exposing law students to three core functions of DFEHóinvestigation, litigation, and mediation. He has further mentored the Department's first class of Civil Rights Graduate Fellows in Los Angeles and Irvine, coaching them on class action practice in the Departmentís Unruh Act case against the Law School Admission Council.
Prior to the DFEH, Mr. Ichinaga had a stellar 20-year career at the California Department of Justice, winning six Attorney Generalís Awards for excellence in supervision and litigation of high profile cases. He was Supervising Deputy Attorney General over the Corporate Fraud Section and the Securities and Underground Economy Unit, where he supervised highly publicized complex securities fraud litigation regarding labor law provisions, including civil and criminal investigations under the Unfair Competition Law and the Penal Code. Mr. Ichinaga was Deputy Attorney General IV in the Antitrust Law Section, where he investigated and litigated violations of the Cartwright Act. Notably, during his years in the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, Mr. Ichinaga not only represented the DFEH and FEHC, but also investigated and litigated violations of civil rights laws, including sensitive investigation of civil rights violations by the Riverside Police Department, disability access violations by municipalities, low and moderate income housing violations, and the constitutional rights of students in school disciplinary proceedings. In the Tobacco Litigation Section, Mr. Ichinaga supervised attorneys and paralegals handling People of the State of California v. Philip Morris, a case that resulted in the largest civil settlement against the tobacco industry in the State of California. In the Government Law Section, Mr. Ichinaga litigated construction, public finance, and real property issues involving the State Allocation Board, State Controller, Department of General Services, and the Public Employee Retirement System. In the Health, Education & Welfare Section, Mr. Ichinaga engaged in civil litigation relating to education, health, and welfare services, including statewide initiatives such as immigration status, bilingual education, and use of race and gender classifications with respect to various state programs and services. In addition, Mr. Ichinaga was also in private practice in the litigation department of McKenna & Fitting, a national law firm that represented financial institutions, focusing on law and motion and appellate work with substantive issues relating to employment discrimination, real property, construction, real property financing, and compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Mr. Ichinaga further served as a judicial extern with the Honorable Robert M. Takasugi, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
Mr. Ichinagaís published decisions include: California ex rel. Brown v. Villalobos, 453 B.R. 404, 2011 WL 2632635 (D. Nev. July 1, 2011); People ex. rel. Duchard v. OíNeal, 179 Cal.App.4th 1494 (2009); People v. Edward D. Jones & Co., 154 Cal.App.4th 627 (2007); People v. Capital Research and Management Co. v. Brown, 147 Cal.App.4th 58 (2007); and League of United Latin American Citizens v. Wilson, 997 F.Supp.1244 (C.D. Cal. 1997).
Mr. Ichinaga received his B.A. cum laude from California State University at Long Beach, his M.S.W. from UCLA, and his J.D. with honors from Southwestern Law School.Back to top
Deputy Director of Administration
DeLesa Swanigan is the Deputy Director of Administration, in charge of DFEHís Human Resources, Fiscal Operations, Business Services/Contracts, and Organizational Development. DeLesa has over 25 yearsí experience in state government. Prior to assuming her responsibilities at DFEH in September 2014, DeLesa served as Chief of the Policy and Administrative Services Division at the California Public Employeesí Retirement System; Special Advisor/Assistant to the Undersecretary of Administration at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; Chief of Administration at the California Commission on Correctional Peace Officers Standards and Training; Administrative Services Manager at several state agencies; and Contracts Officer at the California Conservation Corps.
DeLesa graduated with honors from the University of San Francisco with a B.S. degree in organizational behavior. She also received a certificate in management from California State University in Sacramento, and a certificate in professional coaching for life and work from U.C. Davis.Back to top
Chief of Enforcement
Mary Bonilla is the Enforcement Division Chief for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and a member of the Executive Team, with oversight of statewide enforcement operations, compliance, and policies and procedures.
She has served with the State of California for 37 years and worked for the Department for 29 years. During her tenure at DFEH, Ms. Bonilla has served as Acting Chief of Enforcement, Associate Chief of Enforcement, Regional Administrator, District Administrator and Consultant. Ms. Bonilla has been instrumental in leading statewide employment and housing enforcement, operations, investigations and civil rights initiatives. She oversees enforcement offices in Elk Grove, Fremont, Fresno, Bakersfield and Los Angeles. She has participated in the implementation of technological improvements to case processing functions and activities to improve collaboration with interdepartmental divisions and state and federal agencies.
She also represents the Department in all aspects of the Departmentís operations with the public, including legislators, federal partners (EEOC, HUD) and civil rights activist groups and individuals. Ms. Bonilla heads the Departmentís partnerships with California State University Bakersfield Civil Rights Clinic and the College of the Canyons Civil Rights Clinic. She is a sought after statewide civil rights speaker on employment and housing discrimination and harassment. As a former investigator, Ms. Bonilla has extensive investigations and enforcement experience and has resolved discrimination and harassment complaints through effective conciliation of settlement agreements.
Ms. Bonilla is an ex officio member of the Employment Round Table of Southern California. She has received numerous Director Awards for excellence in leadership, management and program development and implementation. She has provided leadership in the development of training webinars and videos on civil rights discrimination education.
Ms. Bonilla holds a Masterís and Bachelorís degree in Public Administration from the California State University, Bakersfield.Back to top
Nelson Chan, Esq.
Chief of Public Policy and Education
Nelson Chan is the Chief of Public Policy and Education, in charge of DFEH educational partnerships, clinical programs, internships, external and internal training. He was formerly Chief of Enforcement and Chief Counsel of the DFEH.† A member of the Legal Division since 2004, Mr. Chan is one of the most experienced and longest-serving attorneys in the DFEH. He has successfully prosecuted numerous Department cases, including: DFEH v. Capital Hills ARCO (Johnson) (sexual harassment in employment), $300,000 plus $25,000 civil penalties; DFEH v. City and County of San Francisco (Martin) (employment retaliation) $160,000 and affirmative relief; DFEH v. Alameda County Superior Court (Bolton) (physical disability in employment) $125,000 and affirmative relief; and DFEH v. Nosratian (Helvaci/HRC) (familial status discrimination in housing), $30,000 and affirmative relief.† Mr. Chan is on the Executive Committee of the State Bar Public Law Section.
Prior to the DFEH, Mr. Chan was Governor Gray Davisí appointee as: State Director of the Small Business Development Center Program (SBDC); Deputy Secretary of the Global Economic Development Division (GED) of the California Technology, Trade, and Commerce Agency (TTCA); and Director of its Sacramento Regional Office. He also represented clients in private practice.
Mr. Chan graduated with honors from the University of California at Davis, with a B.A. degree in political science/public service. He earned his J.D. degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.Back to top
Deputy Director of Communications
Fahizah Alim is the Deputy Director of Communications appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. An award-winning journalist, she retired in 2007 from her position as a Senior Writer for the Sacramento Bee after more than 25 years of ground-breaking journalism. During her tenure at The Bee, Ms. Alim exposed the wider community to important people and issues in the minority communities, seeking to demystify them and promote better understanding.
Ms. Alim started a second career in the State Capitol shortly after leaving The Bee serving most recently as the Communications Director for State Senator Curren D. Price Jr. Previously she was Communications Director for the Legislative Black Caucus, Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Senator Roderick D. Wright.
Ms. Alim studied journalism and African American studies in the undergraduate and graduate schools at the University of California, Berkeley. Her numerous awards include the California Legislative Black Caucus Foundation Reporter of the Year Award For Outstanding Service in Journalism, the YWCA Woman of the Year Award, The Congressman Robert T. Matsui Community Service Award, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Media Advocacy Award, the California Black Chamber Award for Excellence in Journalism and the California State Bar's Silver Medallion Award for Investigative Reporting. In addition, she is a past-President of the Sacramento Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and Vice President of the Sacramento Chapter of Links, Inc.Back to top
Holly A. Thomas
Deputy Director of Executive Programs
Holly A. Thomas was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on July 22, 2016, to be deputy director of executive programs at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
From 2015 to 2016, Ms. Thomas served as Special Counsel to the Solicitor General at the New York State Attorney Generalís Office, representing the state of New York and state agencies in a wide variety of matters. Prior to that, she spent five years as a senior attorney in the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice, where she represented the United States in education, voting, religious freedom, disability rights, employment, USERRA, immigration, and criminal matters, and provided counsel regarding matters of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. She also served, from 2005 to 2010, as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she worked on education and criminal justice issues and was an Arthur Liman Fellow from 2005 to 2006. Ms. Thomas has presented oral arguments before the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department, and the United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Circuits.
Ms. Thomas is a recipient of the 2008 New York City Bar Association Thurgood Marshall Award for Capital Representation; and, from the United States Department of Justice, the 2012 Special Commendation for Outstanding Service in the Civil Rights Division for work on an appeal involving the deprivation of rights under color of law; 2013 Attorney Generalís Award for Distinguished Service for work implementing the Presidentís conclusion that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and warranted heightened scrutiny; 2014 Attorney Generalís Award for Exceptional Service, the Departmentís highest award for employee performance, for outstanding achievement in United States v. Windsor implementation; and the 2015 John Marshall Award for Providing Legal Advice for guiding the Department to its new position regarding Title VII and gender identity. She has been a frequent speaker and lecturer regarding civil rights issues.
Ms. Thomas served as a law clerk for the Honorable Kim McLane Wardlaw at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2004 to 2005. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School.Back to top
Chief Information Officer
PJ Bajwa is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and oversees Information Technology (IT) and project activities of the department. He is responsible for IT strategic plans to meet DFEH's mission critical goals and programs and efficient execution of IT operations and processes to improve technology and business alignment.
Prior to joining DFEH, PJ was responsible for overseeing State departmentsí Information Technology (IT) projects at Department of Technology. He provided direct oversight to ensure effective and efficient management of State IT projects and guided departments to develop IT Strategy, Business Case, Procurement and Governance activities as related to project lifecycle. Prior to that PJ led a team of developers and consultants on software development initiatives at CalPERS.
PJ has over 20 yearsí experience in IT in the private and public sectors. He possesses a Masterís degree in Software Systems Engineering and a Bachelorís degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from California State University, San Jose. He also holds a Project Management Professional certification.Back to top