On December 23, 2002, a Mexican woman who worked in the U.S. as a non-immigrant guest worker filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleging that various labor recruiters engaged in sex discrimination against women who they were placing as non-immigrant guest workers at various U.S. farms. Specifically, plaintiff alleged a systematic practice by recruiters of denying women the opportunity to obtain seasonal work (agricultural work, such as harvesting crops) under the H-2A visa guest worker program and instead deliberately steering them to less lucrative jobs in the H-2B visa guest worker program (work classified as nonagricultural, such as packing produce), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state law. Attorneys with Legal Momentum, Farmworkers Legal Services of New York (FLSNY), and other social justice organizations and private firms represented the plaintiff. Plaintiff sought declaratory relief and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
Defendants moved to dismiss, and/or for summary judgment on various grounds, including a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and argued that Title VII did not protect workers recruited outside of the U.S. In June 2004, the District Court (Chief Judge Norman A. Mordue) denied defendants' motions. Olvera-Morales v. Sterling Onions, Inc., 322 F. Supp. 2d 211 (N.D.N.Y. 2004).
On June 15, 2005, following the dismissal of the New York defendants, the case was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The Court reconsidered the transfer order but reaffirmed its decision. Olvera-Morales v. Int'l Labor Mgmt. Corp., No. 5:02-CV-1589, 2006 WL 931752, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17923 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 2006).
Plaintiff moved for class certification on February 15, 2007, proposing a class consisting of "[a]ll female H-2B workers recruited, procured or referred for employment by the Defendants or their agents, or whose H-2B employment opportunity was procured by Defendants or their agents, from 1999 to the present." On November 7, 2007, the District Court (Judge N. Carlton Tilley, Jr.) granted class certification. Olvera-Morales v. Int'l Labor Mgmt. Corp., 246 F.R.D. 250 (M.D.N.C. 2007).
On December 18, 2007, the Court (Judge Tilley) granted Defendants International Labor Management Corporation (ILMC) and Del-Al Associates summary judgment on Plaintiffs' Title VII claims. However, the Court denied summary judgment to the North Carolina Grower's Association (NCGA) on the Title VII claims. The Court also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims Plaintiffs asserted under New York Human Rights Law, dismissing them without prejudice. The Court issued its memorandum opinion on January 1, 2008. Olvera-Morales v. Int'l Labor Mgmt. Corp., No. 1:05CV00559, 2008 WL 53293 (M.D.N.C. Jan. 1, 2008). Both Plaintiffs and Defendant NGCA moved for reconsideration.
On February 20, 2008, the Court (Judge Tilley) granted Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration and reinstated the Title VII claim against ILMC. The Court stated that it had dismissed ILMC as an "employment agency," when ILMC had only contested that it was not an "employer." The Court thus held that, as the issue of whether ILMC was not an "employment agency" was not before the Court at the summary judgment stage, it had erred in dismissing the claim. Olvera-Morales v. Int'l Labor Mgmt. Corp., No. 1:05CV00559, 2008 WL 506090 (M.D.N.C. Feb. 20, 2008).
On April 4, 2008, the Court (Judge Tilley) also granted Defendant NGCA's motion for reconsideration and dismissed the Title VII claim against it. The Court held that, since Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the time of her initial EEOC complaint, the "identity of interest" exception--which the Court had applied to Plaintiff--should actually not apply to her on summary judgment. Morales v. Int'l Labor Mgmt. Corp., No. 1:05CV00559, 2008 WL 939180 (M.D.N.C. Apr. 4, 2008).
On April 16, 2008, less than a week before trial was scheduled to begin, the parties notified the Court that they had reached a settlement. The settlement called for Defendants to provide data to Plaintiffs' counsel for three years on the H-2A and H-2B workers hired by Defendants, for Defendants to adopt anti-sex discrimination policies and implement training to that effect, and for $100,000 in settlement funds.
On August 4, 2009, the Court granted the parties' motion for final approval of the class settlement.Dan Dalton - 12/28/2007
Dan Whitman - 03/28/2015