A federal jury has awarded $240 million to 32 men with intellectual disabilities for what government attorneys described as years of abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer.
The men worked at an Iowa turkey processing plant known as Henry’s Turkey Service for 20 years. During that time, they were forced to live in substandard conditions and were subject to verbal and physical harassment, according to a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Texas-based owner of the facility.
On Wednesday, a jury in Iowa sided with the EEOC, agreeing that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and awarded each of the men $2 million in punitive damages and $5.5 million in compensatory damages.
The award is the largest that the EEOC has ever obtained.
“The verdict sends an important message that the conduct that occurred here is intolerable in this nation, and hopefully will help to restore dignity and acknowledge the humanity of the workers who were mistreated for so many years,” said Jacqueline Berrien, chair of the EEOC.
Government attorneys said the men were denied medical care and frequently called “retarded,” “dumb ass” and “stupid.” Because of the men’s intellectual disabilities, they were unaware of the extent to which their rights were being violated, the EEOC argued.
Beyond the award this week, the EEOC previously won a $1.3 million wage discrimination verdict for the men who had been paid just $65 per month for their work at the turkey plant, which was shuttered in 2009.