In early May of 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was celebrating the largest verdict in the commission’s history to then see the award dramatically reduced weeks later.
The EEOC filed suit against Henry’s Turkey Service, on behalf of 32 mentally disabled men, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claimed the men were abused, denied medical care and were forced to live in squalor while being paid a mere .41¢ an hour. The EEOC presented evidence that Henry’s Turkey exploited these workers, whose jobs involved eviscerating turkeys, because their intellectual disabilities made them particularly vulnerable and unaware of the extent to which their legal rights were being denied. Specifically, the EEOC proved that for years and years the owners and staffers of Henry’s Turkey subjected the workers to abusive verbal and physical harassment; restricted their freedom of movement; and imposed other harsh terms and conditions of employment such as requiring them to live in deplorable and sub-standard living conditions, and failing to provide adequate medical care when needed.
The jury found in favor of the workers and awarded each worker $7.5 million in damages including $2MM in punitive damages.
However, since the plant employed less than 101 employees the statutory limit for recovery of damages is capped at $50,000 plus interest for each worker. The commission stated the $7.5 million jury award was an “appropriate and meaningful measure of the actual harms suffered by these victims of discrimination”. Unfortunately for the workers, the stringent federal damage cap drastically reduced their award from $7.5 million to $100,000 – which includes $50,000 in back wages.
For more information on the case and the EEOC click here: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/5-1-13b.cfm
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v Hill Country Farms, Inc. Iowa Southern 3:11-cv-00041
Although it is great to see a company that has been so blatantly abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act brought to justice, it’s too bad that “Henry and his turkeys” didn’t have to feel the real pain of the jury verdict.
Senior Vice President