Stokes Lawrence Employment Attorneys Advocate for Fairness, Defend Clients Against Meritless Claims

Jun 19, 2013

Related Practices: Agriculture and Employment

This spring, a team of Stokes Lawrence employment attorneys, which included Brendan Monahan, Carolyn Cairns, Justo Gonzalez and Sarah Wixson, successfully defended apple grower Evans Fruit against sexual harassment and retaliation claims brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Stokes Lawrence is the only firm in the United States to win against the EEOC at trial in the past year.

Both sides presented all of the facts of the case to a jury of women and men. After a 2 ½ week trial, the jury unanimously found in favor of Evans Fruit on all claims in this complex and highly visible case.

There are important takeaways from this case. The first is that employers who are willing to defend themselves against meritless claims can win. The second is that all employers need to have workplace policies in place to ensure that all employees, supervisors and line employees alike, understand that sex harassment will not be tolerated. Evans Fruit’s workplace policies have always gone beyond what the law requires. At trial, even the EEOC admitted that Evans Fruit’s sexual harassment policies were “state of the art.” Because of this case, there is an increasing commitment to sexual harassment prevention policies and training within the agricultural industry. This will benefit the workers, employers and the economic foundation of the Washington agricultural industry.

“We recognize that the life of an agricultural worker can be very hard. That does not mean, however, that every claim made by an agricultural worker has merit. The jury listened to the stories of the 14 women, listened to the inconsistencies in their stories, and did not find the stories credible,” said Brendan Monahan, shareholder at Stokes Lawrence and attorney for Evans Fruit. “We are proud that our work will ensure that Mr. and Mrs. Evans can continue to run their business with pride, and provide a fair and safe workplace for their employees.”

The attorneys at Stokes Lawrence value access to justice and advocate for safe workplaces. The firm’s Employment practice is a leader on EEOC matters and is recognized as the top employment law practice in Washington.

About Stokes Lawrence: With offices in Seattle and Yakima, Stokes Lawrence represents businesses, and the families and individuals who run those companies in industries that range from agriculture to high tech.