UCSF Names Affirmative Action, ADA Director

By Lisa Cisneros

Cristina Pérez, JD

Cristina Pérez-Abelson, JD, an attorney who specializes in affirmative action compliance and workplace diversity, has been named program director of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity (AAEO) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Reporting to Renee Navarro, MD, PharmD, vice chancellor of Diversity and Outreach, Pérez-Abelson will be responsible for producing federally mandated staff and academic employee affirmative action plans in collaboration with Human Resources and Academic Personnel. 

“We are pleased that Cristina has accepted the position of program director, which is an essential contributor to the Office of Diversity and Outreach, and a key player in it its ability to carry out its mission of creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace,” Navarro said. “In her new role, she will work collaboratively with Diversity and Outreach staff members, campus and University diversity stakeholders, Human Resources, Academic Affairs, Office of Institutional Research, and academic and administrative divisions on affirmative action-related initiatives, programs, projects and compliance activities.” 

Pérez-Abelson will be the primary liaison to the UC Office of the President (UCOP) and UC Office of General Counsel, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and point person for faculty, staff, and student equal opportunity discrimination claims, and compliance programs and initiatives.

“I have always been passionate about social justice,” Pérez-Abelson said. “My parents raised me to believe in civic responsibility and public service. On my first report card, my kindergarten teacher commented that I was obsessed with fairness and justice. In college and graduate school I became  fascinated by the power and potential of the law. I became an attorney in the hope that I could someday harness that power and potential.”  

At UCSF, she will monitor and implement Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations, conduct self-audits, and prepare for and serve as liaison for UCSF’s participation in agency audits.

In partnership with Human Resources a UCSF, Pérez-Abelson will lead workforce data analyses aimed at identifying areas of potential improvement and develop and implement strategies and initiatives, including outreach programs to recruit and retain a diverse faculty, staff, trainee and student body. She also will be charged with tracking and assessing the effectiveness of campus outreach programs for continuous improvement.

Pérez-Abelson will provide Affirmative Action, ADA and Diversity education and training and manage resolution of internal complaints for the campus and medical center. Working in conjunction with the Investigations Unit, she will oversee investigation of complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. 

As ADA coordinator, Pérez-Abelson will be the point of contact for disability related initiatives, and collaborates with UCSF departments and stakeholders, governmental agencies, and advocacy groups to influence decision-making and ensure UCSF compliance with State and Federal mandates. 

About Cristina Pérez

She comes to UCSF from the national labor and employment law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., where she represented and counseled employers in all areas of employment law, specializing in affirmative action. She assisted clients in preparing compliant and strategically-focused affirmative action plans and advised employers on how best to develop recruitment, selection, applicant tracking, pre-employment testing, performance management, compensation, and other employment practices and policies. 

Pérez-Abelson has devoted a significant portion of her law practice to representing employers in compliance evaluations and administrative enforcement actions initiated by the OFCCP. In addition to her affirmative action expertise, she represented employers in cases involving allegations of race, gender, age, sexual harassment, national origin, religion and disability claims, wage-and-hour violations, retaliation and other workplace issues. She also spent a substantial amount of her time providing advice and counsel on a broad spectrum of workplace diversity matters. 

Pérez-Abelson returns to UC after having served as director of Faculty Equity in the Office of the Chancellor at UC Berkeley (2003-2006). At UC Berkeley, she was responsible for the design, direction, and implementation of faculty programs and policies. She also provided affirmative action advice to faculty and senior management, restructured the faculty equity office and support staff, and served on numerous campus-wide and system-wide committees regarding diversity and inclusion, including the UC President’s Task Force on Faculty Diversity, the UC Berkeley’s Diversity Project Coordinating Committee, and the Senior Advisory Group on Diversity and Inclusion.

Born and raised in San Diego, Pérez-Abelson received her Juris Doctorate degree from the UC Berkeley School of Law, where she was Editor-in-Chief of Berkeley’s La Raza Law Journal.  She earned her Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and her Bachelor of Arts degree, also in History, from UC Berkeley.  

When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and her two dogs. Pérez-Abelson loves yoga, cycling, wine tasting and exploring Bay Area restaurants.