AMICUS BRIEFS AND LETTERS
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Overhill Farms v. Lopez
Overhill Farms was decided in December 2010 by the 4th District Court of Appeal in California. According to the decision, Overhill Farms fired approximately 200 packinghouse workers represented by UFCW Local 770 after they failed to resolve issues raised by a no-match letter from the IRS. The workers carried out peaceful demonstrations with signs stating "OVERHILL FARMS UNFAIR and RACIST EMPLOYER." A leaflet asserted that Overhills' president used the no-match issue "as a pretext to eliminate one-fourth of [its] workforce, amongst the most senior, and replace them with part-time classified employees with no benefits." The leaflet stated Overhill's president "is confident that we are passive and will accept this racist and discriminatory abuse against Latina women immigrants and our families without a fight. But he is wrong."
The employer filed suit against the employees for defamation, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, intentional interference with contractual relations, extortion, and unfair competition. The employees filed an anti-SLAPP motion which was denied except as to the unfair competition claim. The 4th District affirmed.
The heart of the majority rationale is this quote from the trial court's ruling: "While referring to a plaintiff as 'racist' could be mere opinion in some circumstances, under the context of this dispute the clear implication of defendants' assertion was that they were fired because of their race. [Plaintiff] has submitted substantial evidence this was not true."
The vigorous dissent asks: "[W]ould it be actionable if the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, Fox News, or MSNBC complained that the actions by anyone were 'racist' or 'discriminatory'? Of course not. Employees complaining about their employer enjoy the same protection."
Click here for a copy of the decision.