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Exploitation of Disabled Workers Rectified in Part by Equal Opportunity Employment Commission

 

Along with making sure everyone is paid fair wages, comes the responsibility of making sure that continues, even (or especially) when the laborers have a disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Henry’s Turkey Service in Goldthwaite, Texas. The company profited for decades by supplying mentally disabled workers to a turkey plant in Iowa. The men were allegedly paid only 41 cents per hour, even if they worked more than 40 hours a week, and their wages never changed over the three decades that they worked there.

Some of the men lived in a dilapidated bunkhouse a few miles from the factory. The company paid $600 a month for the building, yet the laborers were allegedly charged more than $1,000 per month from their wages, in addition to hundreds of dollars from their Social Security checks, supposedly to pay for their room and board. The building was shut down in 2009 after an investigation allegedly found substandard construction, unsafe living conditions, a leaky roof, and insect infestation.

In addition to the poor working conditions, the lawsuit alleges that the employees faced a hostile work environment, harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and other “adverse terms and conditions of employment.”

A federal judge recently ruled that, although the laborers were intellectually disabled, they did their jobs as well as anyone without a disability and testimony showed that they even helped train their replacements. Therefore, there is no reason the men should not have earned at least minimum wage.

Although these conditions persisted for thirty years, the law limits the wages the men can reclaim to the past two years of their employment with Henry’s Turkey Service. The judge has ordered Henry’s Turkey Service to pay $1.37 million in back wages, which amounts to what the men would have earned over a period of two years, had they been paid fair wages.


The attorneys at Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience litigating wage and hour cases including overtime, meal breaks, vacation pay, and tips in Cook, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Will and McHenry counties. Our offices are conveniently located in Oakbrook Terrace and Chicago, Illinois. If you believe you are not being paid fair wages, contact an Highland Park attorney today at 312-869-4095 or fill out our online form.