The U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Iowa has ordered Hill County Farms to pay $1.3 million in back payments to workers with disabilities who worked at a turkey plant whom it contracted with, Henry’s Turkey Services, between February 2007 and February 2009.
The company paid 32 of its workers, many with severe disabilities, as little as $65 a day at the plant. Though many of the workers had been exploited at the plant for decades, going back to the 1970s, the law only allows damages for the two years from which the violations were reported.
For years, the company deducted large chunks of the workers’ paychecks for housing expenses and living expenses, though the workers were living in such filthy conditions that the state shut down the facility in 2009. The farm also collected the workers Social Security checks and subjected the workers to constant physical and verbal harassment.
“This case reflects the Commission’s longstanding commitment to enforce the anti-discrimination laws nationwide on behalf of all workers, including workers with intellectual disabilities and other vulnerable communities,” said P. David Lopez, general counsel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit, in a news release.
“It is a serious mistake for any employer not to adopt safeguards against unlawful discrimination based on the assumption that workers will not exercise their rights due to fear or the lack of understanding.”
In April 2011, Hill County Farms was ordered to pay $1.76 million for minimum wage and overtime violations in a lawsuit with the Department of Labor. The farm has also been fined $1.2 million by the state, according to an Associated Press article.