EEOC Wins Big in Disability Discrimination Case

We wanted to share an U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission victory with you for two reasons:

  1. It’s the biggest award ever recovered by the EEOC, so it’s a pretty big deal
  2. The facts are fairly unbelievable (at least before this you would’ve hoped they would be)

The EEOC was awarded damages totaling $241.3 million by a Davenport, Iowa jury in a disability discrimination case.  The award is the largest in the EEOC’s history, and for good reason.

The case involved 32 males with intellectual disabilities who were employed by Hill County Farms, doing business as Henry’s Turkey Service, between 2007 and 2009.  The jury awarded each employee $5.5 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.  Notably, this was in addition to a previous victory for the employees in September, when a court ordered that the employees be paid $1.3 million for unlawful disability-based wage discrimination.  Turns out that in addition to harassing, discriminating against, and flat-out abusing the intellectually-disabled employees, Henry’s Turkey Service was also paying each one of them a whopping $65.00 per month (TOTAL!!!).

According to an EEOC press release, the EEOC presented evidence that over a period of years the owners and staff of Henry’s Turkey Service subjected the employees to abusive verbal harassment, including frequently referring to them as “retarded” “dumb ass” and “stupid,” and abusive physical harassment, including hitting, kicking, and forcing them to carry heavy weights as punishment.  The EEOC further presented evidence that the employees were forced to live in sub-standard living conditions, that Henry’s Turkey Service failed to provide adequate medical care, and that supervisors were often dismissive of the employees’ complaints of injuries or pain.  Wonderful.

File this one under, “Really?”  Congrats to the EEOC for getting these employees a great result, but it’s unfortunate and unbelievable this happened in the first place.