Region 5 Hispanic Settlement Agreement

The primary goal of the Settlement Agreement is to bring Hispanic representation in the Region 5 workforce to a level that equals the percentage of Hispanics in the available workforce. Forest Service did not admit to any wrongdoing. Both parties entered the Settlement Agreement to resolve their differences.

Regional Hispanic Working Group Executive Committee

The Regional Hispanic Working Group Executive Committee (RHWGX) serves as a liaison between the Regional Hispanic Working Group (RHWG) and the Regional Forester, or his representative. This six-member committee is comprised of the Hispanic Class Agent; signatories of the Region's Hispanic Settlement Agreement (HSA) or the previous Hispanic Resolution Agreement (HRA); or are elected from the body of the region's Hispanic class members. The RHWGX provides general oversight of all RHWG activities and represents Hispanic-class issues and opportunities relevant to the implementation of the HSA.

Who is the RHWGX?

Trini Juarez, Regional Landscape Architect, Regional Office
Angela Lavell, Forest Civil Rights Officer, Angeles National Forest
Sandra Macias, Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager, Regional Office
Joe Reyes, Fire Management Specialist, Sierra National Forest
Peggy Hernandez, Assistant Director, Natural Resource Management, Regional Office
Bernie Alvarez, Assistant Center Manager, Modoc National Forest

What's next

Look for updates on this page that will chronicle our history and our achievements.

Breaking News

January 26, 2007

United States District Court for the Northern District of California denies Plaintiffs' motion for enforcement of the Agreement

Court Document:

January 12, 2007

Well, the Judge ruled to end the HSA. There will be a link to the transcript when it is published. Everyone should reflect on how far we have come be proud of our successes. Look for updates on this page that will chronicle our history and our achievements.
Here is a note from Denise Hulett:

First, the judge was constrained by language in the settlement agreement that said she could order a "one-time, one year extension of the Terms of the Agreement." The judge believed that since she had already ordered one such extension, ordering another would require her to modify the Agreement, and that she could only do so if there had been a "significant change either in the factual conditions or in the law." We argued that such changes had occurred, but the judge ruled against us on that point.

However, even in refusing to extend the HSA, the judge very pointedly told the Region that it was "very very unfortunate that the goals were not achieved," and that their failure was not due to lack of resources but to late compliance with the provisions of the HSA. In other words, Friday was definitely not a victory for the Region on the merits, but rather on a point of contract interpretation. The judge also told them that she hoped that they were speaking in good faith when they made promises to continue the programs that had provided recent results, and hoped that they had learned from the Plaintiffs and from the Monitor.

I will also echo Michael Perez's remarks that we should be proud of our accomplishments. If not for your tenaciousness, I have no doubt that Hispanic representation would have shrunk with the workforce. Instead, it grew from the 7% representation we began with in 1988, and the Region was held to its promises to increase recruitment and hiring. In addition, a number of individual Plaintiffs reached a favorable resolution of their promotional complaints during the HSA's mediation procedures. Let us hope that the judge's comments did not fall on deaf ears, and that the Regional Forester is sincere in his expression of agreement with the court's admonitions, and his promise to follow through on the Region's commitment to the Court.

Thank you all for your unwavering support. I hope to see you all soon.

Denise Hulett
Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center
600 Harrison Street
Suite 120
San Francisco, CA 94117

December 22, 2006

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs file a Reply Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Enforcement of Court-Approved Settlement Agreement

Court Documents:
The memorandum counters the rebuttal submitted by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region (R5) on December 1, 2006, in which R5 attempted to discredit the Court Monitor and tried to redefine civilian labor force (CLF) benchmarks because they will not meet the terms of the HSA.
Attorneys for the Plaintiff defend the validity of the Court Appointed Monitor and highlighted the absurdity of the notion she was incompetent as a lay witness by quoting language from the mutually agreed upon HSA and Court rulings. They say the Monitor is a representative of the court and will provide the court reports on R5's progress with the HSA and remedial measures. The memo also cited legal precedents where court-ordered Monitor reports have been admissible evidence.
The memorandum also deflates R5 notion that barriers (language, education and experience) R5 created are in fact a defense for non-compliance. The CLF cannot be redefined because R5 will not meet the goals they agreed to.
There is no significant language barrier; in fact language proficiency is not even listed as a requirement on vacancy announcements or position descriptions.
Assuming the lack of education is a real barrier, the lack of education or work experience is not a significant factor because a bulk of the positions are at entry level where education and experience requirements are minimal. Besides, inferring Hispanics lack even minimal education is a false perception that only spurs the bias and creates an acceptable environment for further discrimination. The cited text in the memo provides excellent background.
Even if all the absurd stereotypical assertions were true, R5 would still not be in compliance with the HSA and court-ordered remedial measures. The HSA called for three years of good faith effort to meet the terms of this agreement. R5 has not met their end of the bargain. It is only in the last six months, after the Court found the terms of the Agreement enforceable, did R5 take even minimal action to comply with the HSA. Many of the terms of the agreement, such as recruitment will take years to produce meaningful results. R5's actions over the last four years (or even the last 20 years) have demonstrated that Court oversight is needed to ensure R5 Hispanic employees receive full benefit of the HSA.

December 1, 2006

The Defendants (R5) file their 8th Monitoring Report and issue a rebuttal to the Plaintiff's (RHWG) motion to extend the Hispanic Resolution Agreement (HSA).

The RHWGX disagrees with the R5 report.

November 3, 2006

The Plaintiff filed a motion in the 9th Circuit Federal Court to enforce the Settlement Agreement and the court ordered remedial measures by extending the Agreement for two additional years.

Court Documents:

October 10, 2006

Court appointed monitor releases the monitoring report for court ordered extension period.

September 9, 2006

Forest Service issues monitoring report for court ordered extension period.

March 30, 2006

The Court denied Defendant's motion (pdf) to discharge their obligations under the HSA and to find Defendants in compliance, and granted Plaintiff's motion in part and denied it in part. Essentially, the Judge found that although Plaintiffs showed Defendants did not substantially comply with various provisions of the HSA, Plaintiffs had not proven contempt by clear and convincing evidence. The Court did not find that Defendants were in contempt, but it did find that Defendants were not in substantial compliance with Sections IV.B through IV.G and Section V as a whole and specifically that Defendants were in breach of Sections IV.A, IV.C. and IV.D. The Court ordered the following relief:
  • One year extension of the term of the Agreement.
  • Contracting with an effective outside recruiter.
  • Defendants continue with a mentoring program for fire apprentices.
  • Advertise all positions as multi-grade.
  • Advertise positions as interdisciplinary whenever consistent with Forest Service Policy (issued November 30, 2005).
  • Expand the Central California Consortium to at least two additional locations.
  • Create an independent selection review position to be filled by a person selected by and supervised directly the Monitor.
  • Retain and provide data on the race and national origin of applicants for temporary fire-related positions.
  • Defendants retain, until the Agreement ends, human resources personnel, sufficient to carry out all recruitment activities related to implementing the Agreement and the Order, on each forest and in the Regional Office of Region 5.

February 10, 2006

The United States District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division, held a hearing on the parties' (Defendants Forest Service and Plaintiffs RHWG) cross motions concerning compliance with the Hispanic Settlement Agreement (HSA). Plaintiffs had filed a Motion for Contempt; Defendants filed a Motion for Entry of Order That Defendants Have Discharged Their Obligations Under the Settlement Agreement.

The Court found the Defendants to not be in substantial compliance with Sections IV.B through IV.G and Section V, and Found Defendants in breach of Sections IV.A, IV.C and IV.D of the HSA. The court ordered the Agreement extended for one year. The Court further stated a following order would be forthcoming, explaining how the Court found Defendants had not discharged their obligations under the Agreement.

Key Supporting Organizations and Attorneys

A special Thank You! needs to go to the Organizations and Attorneys that have worked so hard for R5 Hispanics to get a fair shot at employment with the USDA Forest Service. Words cannot describe our gratitude for their skill and effort.

Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center LAS–
Denise Hulett
Christopher Ho
Willie Nguyen
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Shaheena Ahmad Simons

These are non-profit organizations that work diligently to defend the rights of minorities. Visit their websites and see what they are about and support them with your contributions.

Contact Information

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Forest Service Documents

The Forest Service web page of the Hispanic Settlement Agreement published an Action Plan and history of the Settlement Agreement. Forest Service Region 5 feels that it is in substantial compliance with the HSA. This January 2006 Briefing Paper was an update by the Region 5 Assistant Regional Forester.