In 2009, authorities moved in to rescue a group of men living in deplorable conditions in what was called a “bunkhouse” in Atalissa. It was an old elementary school with boarded up windows, a leaking roof, rodents and cockroaches. Henry’s Turkey Service ran the operation and bused the men to work at nearby West Liberty Foods. A jury awarded the men a record $240 million, which was later dramatically reduced.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission went to court. It got a judge to override a confidential settlement that would have diverted over half a million dollars from the men to the children of the owner of Henry’s Turkey Service. A government prosecutor who has worked on the case says the intellectually disabled men are due that money because of “their sweat and their suffering” over nearly four decades.
Four of the men who were rescued from the Atalissa bunkhouse in 2009 have died. Collecting the court ordered judgments and government fines from Henry’s Turkey Service has proven difficult, but if those involved now comply, federal officials say they’ll begin distributing about $850,000 to the 28 men who are still alive.