El Paso Times
May 28, 1999
Levi Faces Countersuit After Settlement Reached
By Laura Smitherman
In what has become a legal morass, Levi Strauss & Co. has finalized settlements with most of the workers who said they suffered discrimination, while four plaintiffs have filed a countersuit claiming they were mistreated by the lawyers involved.
At least a dozen lawyers have played a role in litigating the lawsuit in which more than 100 Levi Strauss employees accuse the jeans manufacturer of retaliating against them for collecting workers’ compensation. After a few plaintiffs won $10.6 million in a court decision that was later thrown out, the company settled with most of them.
Settlement agreements with about 80 plaintiffs were completed recently, nearly a year after the deal was struck. The settlement process was stalled because four plaintiffs refused to accept the all-or-nothing offer, and Levi Strauss sued in federal court to enforce the deal.
Those four plaintiffs- Leticia Pacheco, Sophia Cardona, Maria Elena Gomez and Maria Cecilia Nunez- insist they never accepted the settlement. They have filed claims against the five lawyers who handled their cases against Levi Strauss. They are still in negotiations.
“We’ve never had a lawyer who has been honest and decent,” Pacheco said. “They’re just playing this big game, and we’re made to feel small because we don’t know the law.”
None of the women are fluent in English, and they said their requests to have the legal documents translated to Spanish were ignored. They claim the lawyers negotiated among themselves and didn’t explain what was happening. The women said they felt used and belittled.
But in affidavits filed in federal court, the lawyers said all four women did accept the settlement and signed the papers. In the $2.6 million deal with the 80 plaintiffs, the share for Pacheco, Cardona and Gomez was more than $100,000 each, and the share for Nunez was $50,000.
They were among the second group to settle. The first settlement involved 23 plaintiffs, but the terms of the agreement were not disclosed by the lawyers or in legal documents. One of the original plaintiffs’ lawyers, Jim Scherr, said all parties are bound to a confidentiality agreement.
He issued one statement: “We’re please that it’s resolved and that we were able to help people.”