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Abused Mentally Disabled Workers to Receive a Fraction of Initial Backpay Settlement Due to Federal Punishment Caps

A recent landmark verdict which awarded $240 million to 32 mentally disabled plant workers in Iowa has been almost entirely wiped out due to federal caps regulated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new total is $1.6 million, according to the Associated Press:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Henry’s Turkey Service agreed in legal briefs filed late Friday that under federal law, each plaintiff can only recover $50,000 apiece — a far cry from the $7.5 million a jury awarded each worker earlier this month. On Monday, one advocate for the men called the cap “grossly unfair.”

Each plaintiff will also be entitled to separate back pay averaging around $50,000 under an earlier order in the case finding that they were underpaid by about $1.37 million. U.S. Senior Judge Charles Wolle is expected to enter a final judgment in the coming days.

Think Progress provides background on the case:

Over 40 years, hundreds of men were shipped from Texas to work in Henry’s Iowa plant for 41 cents an hour. They were housed in a century-old, cockroach-infested school building with a broken boiler, denied access to disability services, and battered with constant physical and verbal abuse by their so-called caretakers. The complaint details how injuries and requests for medical aid were ignored, restroom breaks were prohibited, while caretakers mocked the men as “retarded” “dumbass” and “stupid.”

EEOC attorney Robert Canino explains that the cap was put into effect because the now-bankrupt Henry’s Turkey Service employed less than 101 employees.

The EEOC, therefore, understands that the amount of damages of $7,500,000 assessed and awarded by the jury to each of the 32 class members, while certainly an appropriate and meaningful measure of the actual harms suffered by these victims of discrimination, including but not limited to, the mental anguish, pain and suffering, and ‘loss of enjoyment of life’, must be drastically reduced in order to come within the stringent statutory limits for recovery,”

This arbitrary rule is not suited to handle a case that spans such a long period of time and involves such limitless atrocities. A new solution must be sought.

RELATED: Disabled workers are overlooked for new employment from Canada to Japan.


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