U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Sensient Dehydrated Flavors Company, et al.

Filing 69

ORDER APPROVING 65 Consent Decree, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 6/29/17. CASE CLOSED. (Marrujo, C)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff, 13 14 15 16 17 No. 1:15-cv-01431-DAD-BAM ORDER APPROVING CONSENT DECREE v. (Doc. Nos. 64–65) SENSIENT DEHYDRATED FLAVORS COMPANY, SENSIENT DEHYDRATED FLAVORS LLC, and SENSIENT NATURAL INGREDIENTS LLC, Defendants. 18 19 This matter is before the court on the parties’ joint motion for approval of a proposed 20 consent decree. This action arises from alleged disability discrimination under the Americans 21 with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). After investigating charges of discrimination and pursuant to its 22 statutory authority, plaintiff U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) 23 commenced this action on September 21, 2015. (Doc. No. 1.) Specifically, the EEOC alleged 24 that defendants engaged in unlawful employment practices on the basis of disability, such as 25 discharging employees based on their use of leave as a reasonable accommodation, discharging 26 employees based on actual or perceived disabilities, and failing to engage in the interactive 27 process or providing reasonable accommodations for known disabilities. The EEOC sought both 28 monetary and injunctive relief. As a result of mediation and lengthy arms-length negotiations, the 1 1 parties reached a settlement on monetary and injunctive terms. The EEOC now seeks approval of 2 a proposed consent decree (see Doc. No. 64-1) reflecting the parties’ agreement. 3 “A consent decree is ‘essentially a settlement agreement subject to continued judicial 4 policing.’” United States v. Oregon, 913 F.2d 576, 580 (9th Cir. 1990) (quoting Williams v. 5 Vukovich, 720 F.2d 909, 920 (6th Cir. 1983)). Thus, before approving a consent decree, a district 6 court must independently determine that the proposed agreement is “fundamentally fair, adequate, 7 and reasonable” and “conform[s] to applicable laws.” Id.; see also Arizona v. City of Tucson, 761 8 F.3d 1005, 1010–14 (9th Cir. 2014). “[T]he district court must balance several factors, including 9 but not limited to: strength of the plaintiffs’ case; risk, expense, complexity and possible duration 10 of continued litigation; relief offered in settlement; extent of discovery already completed; stage 11 of proceedings; experience and views of counsel; governmental participation; and reaction of the 12 class members.” Davis v. City & County of San Francisco, 890 F.2d 1438, 1445 (9th Cir. 1989) 13 (citing Officers for Justice v. Civil Serv. Comm’n of City & County of San Francisco, 688 F.2d 14 615, 625 (9th Cir. 1982)). Where a government agency is involved in the negotiation of the 15 proposed consent decree, there is a presumption in favor of the decree’s enforceability, and courts 16 should pay deference to the agency’s judgment. See S.E.C. v. Randolph, 736 F.2d 525, 529 (9th 17 Cir. 1984). 18 Here, the proposed consent decree provides monetary relief to claimants in a total sum of 19 $800,000.00, with $600,000.00 going to the eight known claimants in this case, and up to 20 $200,000.00 in a contingent class fund from which currently unknown potential claimants may 21 obtain relief, to be allocated among claimants at the EEOC’s discretion. (Doc. No. 64-1 § VII.) 22 The proposed consent decree sets forth a number of forward-looking injunctive measures, 23 including a prohibition on discriminatory employment practices and retaliation, and a requirement 24 that defendants engage in the interactive process with and provide reasonable accommodations to 25 qualified individuals with disabilities. (See, e.g., id. § VIII (general injunctive relief).) For 26 example, the parties agree that defendants will (1) designate an equal employment opportunity 27 monitor to ensure compliance with the decree and the ADA; (2) designate an in-house ADA 28 coordinator to track, monitor, process, and report on requests for accommodation; (3) review and, 2 1 if necessary, revise its policies and procedures regarding disability discrimination, reasonable 2 accommodation, and retaliation; and (4) provide training on employer obligations and employee 3 rights under the ADA. (See, e.g., id. § IX (specific injunctive relief).) 4 In light of the claims and defenses in this action, the court concludes that the proposed 5 consent decree provides substantial relief among claimants and defendants’ employees, and that it 6 is the product of a fair arms-length negotiation process. Accordingly, the court finds that the 7 proposed consent decree is fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate, and that it is not illegal, 8 a product of collusion, or against the public interest. 9 10 For the reasons stated above, 1. The parties’ motion for approval of the proposed consent decree (Doc. No. 65) is 11 granted; 12 2. The parties’ proposed consent decree (Doc. No. 64-1) is approved; 13 3. The court retains continuing jurisdiction over the consent decree in this action for the 14 15 16 17 duration of the decree (see Doc. No. 64-1 § IV.B); and 4. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 29, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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