In one of my last blog posts at my old firm (you know, where I am now known by my pen name, “Fox”), I wrote about the heartbreaking case of the intellectually disabled workers at Henry’s Turkey who were paid $65 a month eviscerating turkeys. I called Henry’s “the poster bird for the abuse of intellectually disabled employees.”
In May 2013, I wrote about the $240,000,000 jury verdict (later reduced by the Court) against Henry’s Turkey procured by the EEOC in an ADA case. An expert witness testified that the employer’s conduct “including acts of deliberate misrepresentation” about wages and expenditures, deprived the workers of “economic independence and self-sufficiency.” The company “took advantage of the workers … knowing that they would not likely be discovered because the workers were disabled.”
The case eventually hit the front page — the New York Times published a “front page center” story by Dan Barry titled “the ‘Boys’ In The Bunkhouse,” and told about “servitude, abuse and redemption in a tiny Iowa farm town,” as it was subtitled by the NYT.
I wrote last December that, with a verdict and judgment secured, “Perhaps this is the coda to the story of Henry’s Boys — perhaps not.”
Well, it’s not.
Apparently, the owners of the company tried to concoct a way to avoid paying the judgment to the disabled workers.
The Times reported today that the federal court in Texas “overrode a confidential arrangement that would have redirected hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to the men, in unpaid court judgments, to the heirs of their former employers, the owners of a Texas-based company called Henry’s Turkey Service.” The Court held that it “does not believe it is by accident that the settlement proceeds make their way to the children [of the owners of Henry’s Turkey Service] … This was an intentional scheme concocted solely to shield a substantial sum of money from the United States’ collection efforts.”
Disabled employees, especially “vulnerable employees,” such as agricultural workers and isolated workers in factories, is a group which the EEOC has announced that it would protect vigorously. However, Henry, the poster bird for this EEOC project, just won’t surrender after the fighting is over. This bird shames us all — and is an unfortunate blot on all of the employers everywhere who obey the law and treat all employees respectfully and without discrimination.