EEOC Ordered to Reimburse Law Firm for Suit Expenses

January 25, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal district court has ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to pay $1,022,653.69 in attorney's fees and expenses to a Pasadena immigration law firm it unsuccessfully sued for sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination.

The award consists of $995,780.72 in attorneys’ fees and $26,872.97 in additional expenses.

Ballard, Rosenberg, Golper & Savitt LLC, the firm that represented Robert L. Reeves & Associates in the case, said in a news release that the US District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian said in his opinion that the lawsuit was “unreasonable, frivolous and without foundation.”

Reeves maintained that the EEOC either knew or unreasonably failed to learn that its lawsuit was part of a scheme by two of Reeves’ former law associates, Daniel Hanlon and Colin Greene, to destroy Reeves and his firm, according to the release. In 2001, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge found Hanlon and Greene liable to Reeves for interference with contract and prospective economic relations, misappropriation of trade secrets and related claims, and awarded Reeves and his firm a total judgment of nearly $200,000. The award was upheld by the California Supreme Court in 2004.

Tevrizian noted that before the EEOC filed its suit against Reeves, the only persons it interviewed were Hanlon, Greene and Nikki Mehrpoo Jacobson – despite Greene’s prior service as the firm’s in-house counsel before the EEOC in a pregnancy-bias charge brought by former employee Judith Quilaton, Greene’s romantic relationship with Jacobson, Hanlon’s role as decisionmaker in the firm’s termination of Quilaton, and Hanlon’s and Greene’s unlawful conduct when they left the firm in 1999.

Tevrizian found that the three “schemed … to elicit the EEOC to expand the (Quilaton) matter to include alleged sexual harassment,” even though Quilaton’s pregnancy-bias claim “eventually proved to be so baseless that the EEOC did not even appeal” from Tevrizian’s summary dismissal of the claim.

Although the EEOC claimed to sue Reeves on behalf of 7-10 people identified by Hanlon, Greene and Jacobson, the agency’s investigator, Deborah Kinzel Barnes, admittedly never spoke with any of these individuals before filing suit. In addition, Tevrizian cited the EEOC’s requests for private information from third parties not involved in the case, its refusal to “provide ‘even the most basic factual allegations’ underlying the supposed claims” of three individuals, and its “flagrant disregard for the attorney-client privilege” in seeking discovery directly from Reeves’ current and former attorneys, including Greene, as examples of “improper use of the legal system.”

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