A jury awarded $240 million to 32 men with mental disabilities in Iowa. Their employer was Henry’s Turkey Service, which had been previously assessed $1.76 million for underpaying men with disabilities. See my prior blog post about that jury trial. The $240 million awarded in Iowa includes $2 million in punitive damages for each of the 32 men, plus $5.5 million in compensatory damages (i.e., emotional suffering damages) for each of the 32 men. See Des Moines Register report. There are caps on the amounts that can be awarded under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so, I am sure, these amounts will be reduced.
These men were shipped to Iowa from Texas to work at the iowa plant. For 40 years, the employer shipped men with disabilities from Texas to the Iowa labor camp. They were paid .41 cents per hour. But, the court limited the jury award to the last two years of the camp’s operation.
Robert Canino, the chief EEOC lawyer in Dallas, was the lead attorney representing the 32 men. The suit charged Henry’s Turkey Service with violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The 2011 lawsuit was based on the Fair Labor Standards Act and alleged wage violations.
The men were not afforded the services usually provided to persons with disabilities. They were not enrolled in Medicaid or allowed other services. They were kept as property, said Mr. Canino. They lived in an old schoolhouse converted into a bunkhouse.
The company president, Kenneth Henry, of Proctor, Texas, testified he was not aware of any abuse other than two incidents. He said that over 45 years, he had sent 1500 men with mental disabilities to labor camps in various states. Evidence showed some men were handcuffed to their bunk at night.
What a way to treat persons with mental disabilities. Good for the jury that held the employer accountable.