Yakima-area fruit grower wins sexual harassment case

YAKIMA — A federal jury rejected sexual harassment claims by 14 women who said they had been subjected to a sexually hostile work environment while working for one of the country’s largest apple growers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had filed the case on behalf of the Evans Fruit orchard workers.

A jury of seven men and two women ruled in favor of Evans Fruit on Wednesday, capping a civil trial that started March 18 in U.S. District Court in Yakima, the Yakima-Herald Republic reported Thursday.

The jury’s verdict represents justice and a big dose of reality, lead attorney for Evans Fruit, Brendan Monahan, said in a statement.

“We can only hope this verdict changes the confrontational manner in which the EEOC approaches its claims against members of the agriculture industry,” he said.

In a brief interview outside the courtroom, Jeanette Evans said she and her husband, Bill, who grew the company from a 10-acre orchard in 1949 to a 7,500-acre industry leader, were right to refuse a settlement and place their fate in a jury’s hands.

“There wasn’t a farmer or an employer on that jury, just common, hard-working folks,” she said. “Justice prevailed.”

William Tamayo, the San Francisco-based regional attorney for the EEOC, said he and his colleagues were disappointed but unbowed.

“We believe (sexual harassment) is still a problem in the industry,” he said, adding the she-said-he-said nature of many sexual harassment claims “are always going to be an issue in any case where there are no other witnesses.”

The plaintiffs claimed they were subjected to unwanted sexual advances by supervisors, including a foreman who was fired after the lawsuit began for embezzling $500,000 from the company. The foreman worked under the Evans’ son, Tim, who died of cancer in 2010.

Evans Fruit countered that none of the plaintiffs complained of harassment while they were employed there, and said most of the complaints could be traced directly to a disgruntled cousin of the foreman.

A second trial in a separate but related EEOC lawsuit, alleging the company retaliated against employees who filed harassment complaints, is set to begin May 20. There are 10 plaintiffs in that case, including some that were party to the first case.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang is known for his people skills

The city’s top cop’s calm demeanor and holistic approach earns him the nickname “Yoda.”

Most Read