A group of mentally disabled workers who endured years of abuse while working at an Iowa meat-processing plant had their $240 million verdict slashed to just $1.6 million by a judge Tuesday.
Previously, jurors ruled that Texas-based company Henry’s Turkey Service had discriminated against the 32 men – who were reportedly sent by Henry’s to work at the Iowa turkey processing plant.
Once in Iowa, the men were forced to work for just 41 cents an hour and were housed in a 100-year-old school building that had been converted into a bunkhouse.
Henry’s allegedly sent hundreds of disabled men to the West Liberty meat-processing plant over a 40 year span.
Judge Charles Wolle’s ruling Tuesday significantly reduced the roughly $7.5 million each of the 32 men was slated to receive as a result of the initial $240 million award. At the time, the verdict was the largest in the history of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which initiated the case against the company.
Now, each employee is expected to receive just $50,000, with additional interest. While explaining his reasoning, Wolle said he was forced to limit the judgment to $50,000 per employee based on the cap included in the Americans with Disabilities Act for businesses with fewer than 101 workers.
He has scheduled a June 10 hearing to consider how much interest each would receive.
Although the company’s labor camp operated for decades, it wasn’t closed until The Des Moines Register asked state officials about conditions inside the bunkhouse in February 2009.