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Workers treated ‘like property’: EEOC wins largest-ever jury verdict

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

An Iowa jury has awarded 32 men with intellectual disabilities the largest verdict in EEOC history—$240 million for 20 years of disability discrimination and abuse.

The jury on May 1 awarded each of the men $7.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages. It found that Hill County Farms exploited the workers, who butchered turkeys, because their intellectual disabilities kept them from understanding their legal rights.

The company treated the men “like property,” said Robert A. Canino, the EEOC attorney who tried the case. He presented evidence that for years, the company’s owners and employees verbally and physically harassed the workers, forced them to live in “deplorable” dormitories and withheld medical care.

The men testified they were repeatedly beaten, kicked and forced to carry heavy weights as punishment.

“These men suffered isolation and exploitation for many years, while their employer cruelly consumed the fruits of their labor,” Canino said.

They were paid just $65 per month, while other employees earned at least $11 an hour for the same work.

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