An Iowa jury awarded the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission $240 million in damages — the largest verdict in the EEOC’s history — for the long-term disability discrimination and severe abuse suffered by 32 intellectually disabled workers on a turkey farm.
In 2009, the Iowa Fire Marshall shut down the bunkhouse where the workers lived for unsafe, unclean and unhealthy conditions, including a leaky roof and insect infestation. The workers were removed and, in 2011, the EEOC sued the employer, Hill Country Farms (“HCF”), for disability discrimination. In 2012, a court ordered HCF to pay the workers $1.3 million for unlawful disability-related wage discrimination. In May, a jury awarded each worker an additional $5.5 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, for a combined verdict of $240 million. Among other abuse, the EEOC presented evidence that supervisors called the workers “retarded,” “dumb ass” and “stupid,” and kicked, hit, and handcuffed them. The EEOC also showed that HCF restricted the workers’ freedom of movement, forced workers’ to live in deplorable living conditions and deprived workers of adequate medical care when needed.