Wednesday, September 19, 2012

EEOC Wins $1.3 Million Judgment in Henry's Turkey Case

Via this press release comes very big news -- the EEOC wins a big judgment in a case involving the exploitation of workers with intellectual disabilities.  The press release begins:
Hill Country Farms Inc., doing business as Henry's Turkey Service, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by paying 32 workers with intellectual disabilities severely substandard wages, a judge has ruled in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The court ordered the company, based in Goldthwaite, Texas, to pay its former employees lawful wages totaling $1.3 million for jobs they performed under contract at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa between 2007 and 2009.

The EEOC alleged in its lawsuit (No. 3:11-cv-00041, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Davenport Division,) that Henry's Turkey exploited a class of disabled workers because their intellectual impairments made them vulnerable and unaware of the extent to which their legal rights were being violated. 
In this latest ruling, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Wolle found that, rather than the total of $65 dollars per month Henry's Turkey paid to the disabled workers while contracted to work on an evisceration line at the plant, the employees should have been compensated at the average wage of $11-12 per hour, reflecting pay typically earned by non-disabled workers who performed the same or similar work. The EEOC's wage claims for each worker ranged from $28,000 to $45,000 in lost income over the course of their last two years before the Henry's Turkey Service operation was shut down in February 2009.
You can also read this AP dispatch, which begins:
A Texas company that profited for decades by supplying mentally disabled workers to an Iowa turkey plant at wages of 41 cents per hour must pay the men $1.37 million in back wages, a federal judge ruled late Tuesday. 
The judgment against Henry's Turkey Service in Goldthwaite is the third of more than $1 million against the company after state authorities in 2009 shut down a dilapidated bunkhouse in rural Iowa where the men had lived since the 1970s. 
The 32 employees had been paid $65 per month to work the processing line at a huge turkey plant in West Liberty after Henry's improperly deducted fees for room and board, care, transportation and other expenses out of their pay and Social Security checks, U.S. District Judge Charles Wolle ruled. The amount they were paid never changed during the 30-year period they worked at the plant, regardless of whether they worked more than 40 hours per week, he found.
This is an extremely important case, and the judgment's a very big deal.

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