Another lawsuit’s been filed in the case of the 21 men with mental disabilities found living in poor conditions in a boarding house in Atalisa two years ago. The 31 men were working at the West Liberty Foods turkey processing plant under and agreement with a business called Henry’s Turkey Service headquartered in Texas.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Davenport that the men were subjected to severe abuse and discrimination for more than 20 years. The EEOC complaint alleges that the owners and staffers of Henry’s Turkey Service denied the workers lawful wages, paying them only 65-dollars a month for full-time work.
It says the company also subjected them to abusive verbal and physical harassment; restricted their freedom of movement; and imposed other harsh terms and conditions of employment such as requiring them to live in deplorable and sub-standard living conditions, and failing to provide adequate medical care when needed.
The EEOC is seeking to recover lost wages for two years prior to the time that the Henry’s Turkey operations were brought to a halt in 2009. Department of Human Services spokesman, Roger Munns, says the men have been doing well since they moved from the bunkhouse in West Branch.
He says all of them were originally from Texas and eight of them have returned to that state to family or to receive services there. Munns says 13 are still in Iowa, with nine of them having part-time jobs, three are retired, and one is receiving skills training. The men in Iowa all live in Waterloo.
Munns says they live at a service provider called “Exceptional Persons Inc.,” and they get services paid for by Medicaid. He says they all have individual care plans to help them with daily living skills like obtaining public transportation. All of them live in apartments, and he says they are generally in good health. Munns says the state has kept track of the men since they were discovered.
Munns says the D.H.S. Targeted Services Division oversees their cases and a report from that division says the men have handled their transition to Iowa pretty well. The U.S. Department of Labor is pursuing a minimum wage and overtime suit against Henry’s Turkey under the Fair Labor Standards Act that is separate from the EEOC lawsuit.
The Labor Department lawsuit is set for trial later this year.