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EEOC ordered to pay $986,000 in legal fees in 2010 orchard bias case


A Yakima, Washington, U.S. District Court judge has ordered the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay $986,000 in attorney fees and costs for the representation of Green Acre Farms Inc. and Valley Fruit Orchards L.L.C. in workplace lawsuits.

In the lawsuits, filed in 2010, the EEOC contended that Global Horizons Inc., a Beverly Hills, California-based farm labor contractor for the two Washington orchards, engaged in a pattern or practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation, when it brought more than 200 Thai males to farms in Hawaii and Washington, where they were severely abused, according to an EEOC press release that year.

Judge Edward Shea dismissed the suits in May 2014, and in March 2015 ordered the EEOC to pay the two companies’ legal fees, stating that “the EEOC failed to conduct an adequate investigation before filing the lawsuit against the grower defendants and as a result its Title VII claim against the grower defendants were baseless, unreasonable and frivolous.”

Last week Judge Shea agreed to the dollar amounts to be paid to three law firms: Stokes Lawrence P.S. of Seattle, $886,881.82; Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P. of Chicago, $85,156.50; and Freeman, Freeman & Smiley L.L.P. of Los Angeles, $595, plus unidentified costs of $13,399.98, according to court documents.

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