Intellectually disabled workers at Henry’s Turkey Service in Iowa were paid only $65 dollars per month eviscerating turkeys on an assembly line, we posted last September. In an ADA case brought by the EEOC, an expert witness said that the company exploited the workers because they had intellectual disabilities, and simply did not know better. She stated that the employer’s conduct "including acts of deliberate misrepresentation" about wages and expenditures, deprived the workers of "economic independence and self-sufficiency." The company "took advantage of the workers … knowing that they would not likely be discovered because the workers were disabled."
In addition to the discriminatory pay practices, the EEOC claimed that the disabled workers were abused verbally and physically, had their freedom unnecessarily restricted, were subject to harsh punishments, required to live collectively in substandard living conditions, and received inadequate health care.
The EEOC has frequently said, “Protecting vulnerable workers from disparate pay, harassment, and other discriminatory policies is one of the priorities identified in the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
Last year the court found that the workers, some of whom had performed the work for over 25 years, were the victims of wage discrimination, and ordered the company to pay them lawful wages totaling $1.3 million.
The court left for trial issues of hostile workplace, and the jury has now slammed Henry’s for $240,000,000 based upon disability-based harassment and discrimination — the largest verdict in EEOC history.
The EEOC was exultant. "These men suffered isolation and exploitation for many years, while their employer cruelly consumed the fruits of their labor," said one EEOC lawyer. Another said that "This historic verdict marks one of the EEOC’s finest moments in its ongoing efforts to combat employment discrimination, especially discrimination against vulnerable and historically underserved populations.”