The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY
This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys Fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"). 28 U.S.C. § 2412. For the reasons stated herein, the Court concludes that plaintiffs' attorneys are entitled to an award under the Act and the Court will allow $20,907.65 of the $21,532.73 requested.
Resolving a motion for attorneys' fees under the EAJA requires two steps of analysis. First, the Court must determine whether award is proper. Second, the Court must decide the amount to which the attorneys are entitled. As to entitlement to award, the EAJA provides:
"[A] court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action brought by or against the United States . . . unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified. . . . " 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) (1) (A).
This class action suit was brought on behalf of a group of migrant farm workers to compel the Department of Labor ("DOL") to enforce certain of its regulations relating to temporary labor certification.
Prior to 1980 DOL had consistently interpreted its regulations to require growers to increase the wage rate paid for piece work
whenever the DOL increased the minimum wage rate -- the adverse effect rate ("AER"). Any grower that did not comply with these regulations was denied certification. Then, in 1980, the DOL began to grant certifications to growers who, rather than increasing the piece rates paid workers, increased the productivity they demanded of workers, whenever the AER was raised. Plaintiffs filed this suit to compel the DOL to enforce its regulations and cease granting certification to these growers.
Defendants argue that in this suit they presented to the Court a reasonable and legally justifiable interpretation of their regulations and therefore their position was substantially justified. The Court views this litigation differently. It appears to the Court that by "reinterpreting" their regulations defendants attempted to institute a significant policy change without complying with the rulemaking procedures mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court does not find defense of this conduct to be substantially justified. In its Opinion, this Court found that DOL's policy change was without support in its regulations and in fact was an attempt to avoid the mandate of those regulations.
See 29 C.F.R. §§ 655.207(c) & 655.202(b) (9). Accordingly, the Court now finds that DOL's position in this litigation was not substantially justified and the plaintiffs' attorneys are entitled to a fee award under the EAJA.
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