On Wednesday, a Davenport, Iowa jury awarded the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC) damages totaling $240 million - the largest verdict in the federal agency's history - for disability discrimination and severe abuse.
The jury found that Hill County Farms subjected 32 men with intellectual disabilities to severe harassment, abuse and discrimination for a period between 2007 and 2009, after 20 years of similar mistreatment. EEOC presented evidence to the jury 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 presented evidence 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.
Verbal abuses included frequently referring to the workers as "retarded," "dumb ass" and "stupid." Class members reported acts of physical abuse including hitting, kicking, at least one case of handcuffing, and forcing the disabled workers to carry heavy weights as punishment. The Henry's Turkey supervisors, also the workers' purported caretakers, were often dismissive of complaints of injuries or pain.
Stories like this are why Plaintiff’s Employment Lawyers do what they do. The treatment clearly violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and would clearly violate California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If you, or anyone you know, are suffering from harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, in the workplace you should contact an experienced employment discrimination lawyer to help you gather evidence to prove discrimination. You should do so soon because the lawyer might even help save your job so you don’t need a wrongful termination lawyer later on.
John McCarthy is a San Diego employment lawyer handling wrongful termination, discrimination, and wage and hourissues. He counsels, and represents employees, and writes a California Employment Law Blog.