A federal judge has dismissed the second of two lawsuits brought on behalf of orchard workers by a federal agency against Evans Fruit, one of the country’s largest apple growers.
Ten orchard workers claimed that Evans Fruit had retaliated against them for meeting with representatives of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pursue a claim alleging sexual harassment.
The EEOC’s lawsuit centered around allegations that one of Evans Fruit’s ranch foremen had sent two individuals to spy on a February 2010 meeting the EEOC held with employees at the Sunnyside Public Library. The EEOC filed the retaliation lawsuit on September 16, 2011. In December 2012, Evans Fruit moved for dismissal, arguing that the EEOC’s claims lacked any basis in fact.
U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko on Friday granted Evans Fruit’s motion, ruling that the EEOC had failed to present evidence that any of the workers had been threatened by anyone associated with Evans Fruit. The court found that no reasonable juror could find in favor of the EEOC’s claims.
The dismissal is the second blow to the EEOC, which lost a jury trial earlier this month on the harassment allegations against Evans. A jury said the women failed to prove they were subject to a sexually hostile work environment.
In his conclusion on the retaliation lawsuit, Suko said many of the claimants at the library meeting were not even aware that the two men were there or whether they had any connection with Evans Fruit.
“Without admissible evidence of threats, there is simply nothing to connect alleged pre-meeting and post-meeting acts of intimidation/retaliation with the library meeting,” Suko wrote.