Jury Awards $240 Million in Disability Discrimination Case Involving Severe Abuse of Workers with Intellectual Disabilities

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced its largest jury verdict in the federal agency’s history–$240 million–in a case in which an Iowa jury found Hill County Farms liable for subjecting 32 men with intellectual disabilities to substantial abuse and discrimination.

According to an EEOC press release, available here, the agency presented evidence that for years, the owners and staffers of the defendant company “subjected the workers 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.”

“Verbal abuses included frequently referring to the workers as ‘retarded,’ ‘dumb ass’ and ‘stupid.’  Class members reported acts of physical abuse including hitting, kicking, at least one case of handcuffing, and forcing the disabled workers to carry heavy weights as punishment.  The [company’s] supervisors, also the workers’ purported caretakers, were often dismissive of complaints of injuries or pain.”

Although this case took place in Iowa, the jury’s clear message–that disability discrimination will not be tolerated–should resonate with employers across the country, particularly those in California, where the state’s anti-disability discrimination laws are among the strongest in the nation.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

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