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Case Name Brionez v. United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") EE-CA-0369
Docket / Court 4:01-cv-03969 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
This is a case about discriminatory hiring practices in Region 5 of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). On October 22, 2001, the Regional Hispanic Working Group (represented by a group of individual members) filed this lawsuit in the United States District ... read more >
This is a case about discriminatory hiring practices in Region 5 of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). On October 22, 2001, the Regional Hispanic Working Group (represented by a group of individual members) filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the USDA under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e). Represented by the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and private counsel, plaintiffs sought injunctive relief to resolve employment disputes and improve hiring practices that they claimed led to underrepresentation of Hispanics in Region 5’s workforce.

The court granted class certification, defining the class as “[a]ll permanent Hispanic employees of Forest Service, Region 5 who allege that they have applied for and not been selected for a Region 5 Position based on race or national origin, or have been retaliated against because of their involvement in civil rights activities. The class also includes former permanent Hispanic employees who have formal EEO complaints, based on non-selection because of race, national origin, or retaliation, pending on the Effective Date of this Agreement.”

The parties reached a preliminary settlement agreement that was approved by Judge Claudia Wilken on July 2, 2002. Approximately 3 months later, the court approved a final settlement agreement to last three years, with the court retaining the ability to approve a one-time, one-year extension. The agreement provided the opportunity for class members with pending Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints to resolve them through mediation. Under the terms of the agreement, mediation would be conducted and paid for by Region 5. If class members chose not to participate in mediation, the standard complaint process continued through the EEOC. If class members opted to participate in mediation, but were unable to resolve their complaint, the complaint would be forwarded to the Region 5 Regional Office to review the case and determine if any additional action should be taken. The Regional Office would then make recommendations to the Regional Forester, who had the final say in the settlement of the complaint. The Regional Forester could either extend a “Best and Final Offer” to the employee or determine no additional offer was to be made, in which case the complaint would continue under the standard EEOC complaint process.

The settlement also provided that Region 5 would take measures to eliminate barriers to hiring, promotion, and retention of Hispanics in the Region 5 workforce. Region 5 was to hire a full-time Regional Recruitment Coordinator to implement the program, make a good-faith effort to fill and maintain the position of Region 5 Civil Rights Director, and retain a monitor to oversee implementation. The program included advertising positions in specific job series, engaging in recruitment activities specifically designed to increase diversity, and providing EEO training to employees. Representatives from the Regional Forester’s Office were also to meet annually with the Regional Hispanic Working Group to review the progress of the settlement agreement and develop plans to effectuate it as needed. The district court retained jurisdiction to enforce the agreement, but the parties were obligated to first attempt to resolve any claim of non-compliance through negotiations. Plaintiffs were also entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees.

In February of 2006, the settlement agreement was extended by the court for one year. The court found that defendants had not discharged their obligations under the agreement, as they were not in substantial compliance with some elements and were in breach of others. In a subsequent ruling on March 30, 2006, the court specifically stated Region 5 had not properly maintained a Regional Recruitment Coordinator or Civil Rights Director and had failed to properly advertise positions to increase diversity, among other areas of noncompliance. As a result, Region 5 had failed to make significant progress toward the goal of increasing representation of Hispanics in the workforce. The court also provided additional remedies such as mandated contracting with an outside recruiter and the creation of a selection review position. The court denied, however, plaintiffs’ request to declare the constitutionality of using race and national origin as optional plus factors to select among qualified candidates.

On October 9, 2006, the court monitor issued a report indicating that Region 5 was taking its obligations more seriously and was better complying with the agreement. Still, Region 5 was failing to comply with some elements, such as the implementation of particular outreach and recruitment procedures. While the report showed only limited success in increasing Hispanic employment levels, because Region 5 had only recently begun to comply more significantly with the agreement, the monitor acknowledged it would take time to show results. The monitor recommended that Region 5 voluntarily agree to modify the settlement to extend its enforcement until a reasonable period of time after the transfer of HR operations to New Mexico. In that time, the monitor suggested the Region submit regular reports to the court. Region 5 did not agree to extend.

On January 1, 2007, the court denied plaintiffs’ request to extend enforcement of the settlement agreement for an additional 2 years. While Region 5 opted not to extend the agreement pursuant to the monitor’s recommendation, it did agree to continue programs it believed to be effective, such as its mentoring program. The court noted that, even if the goals of the agreement were not met, Region 5 was not in breach of the agreement if they had demonstrated substantial compliance, which the monitor showed in her report. The court did not have any additional authority under its power to implement “additional remedial measures” or elsewhere to extend the agreement beyond the previously used one-time, one-year extension.

Jordan Schuler - 11/06/2021

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Comply with advertising/recruiting requirements
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Provide antidiscrimination training
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
National Origin/Ethnicity
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("Region 5")
Plaintiff Description Individual Hispanic Forest Service employees and the Regional Hispanic Working Group on behalf of all permanent Hispanic employees of the Forest Service, Region 5 alleging discrimination
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2002 - 2007
Filed 10/22/2001
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
EE-CA-0369-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
Order Granting Unopposed Motion for Provisional Class Certification [ECF# 32]
EE-CA-0369-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Final Judgment Approving Settlement Agreement [ECF# 44]
EE-CA-0369-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Extending Term of Settlement Agreement [ECF# 132]
EE-CA-0369-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
[Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Entry of Order that Defendants have Discharged their Obligations under the Settlement Agreement, and Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Contempt and for Enforcement of Settlement] [ECF# 137]
EE-CA-0369-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Regarding Reporting and Enforcement Procedure [ECF# 144]
EE-CA-0369-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
October 9, 2006 Report of the Court Appointed Monitor [ECF# 151 & 151-1 to 151-6]
EE-CA-0369-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Enforcement of Court-Approved Settlement [ECF# 174] (2007 WL 217680)
EE-CA-0369-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Wilken, Claudia Ann (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0369-0001 | EE-CA-0369-0002 | EE-CA-0369-0003 | EE-CA-0369-0005 | EE-CA-0369-0006 | EE-CA-0369-0007 | EE-CA-0369-9000
Monitors/Masters Seville, Marci Beth (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0369-0004 | EE-CA-0369-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Borton, Robert E (California) show/hide docs
Duarte, Lisa (California) show/hide docs
Gonzales, Cal G (California) show/hide docs
Ho, Christopher (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0369-0001 | EE-CA-0369-9000
Hulett, Denise M. (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0369-0001 | EE-CA-0369-9000
Saenz, Thomas A. (California) show/hide docs
Simons, Shaheena Ahmad (California) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Azar, Henry A. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Bensing, Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Chilakamarri, Varu (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Kenney, Patricia J. (California) show/hide docs
Lepley, Richard G (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
McCallum, Robert D. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Ryan, Kevin V (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Shapiro, David W (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Suarez, Marissa (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Ullman, Susan K (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0369-0001 | EE-CA-0369-9000

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