'House of horrors': Iowa jury awards $240M to disabled turkey-plant workers


An Iowa jury on Wednesday awarded $240 million to 32 mentally disabled Iowa turkey processing plant workers for what government lawyers described as years of around-the-clock abuse and discrimination, the Des Moines Register reports.

The ruling was made against Henry's Turkey Service, of Goldthwaite, Tex., a now defunct company that oversaw the workers' care, work and lodging. Evidence in the case contained shocking details about worker treatment. One sister of a worker said the nightmare-inducing 100-year-old school house, converted to a bunkhouse, where the men were housed was known as the "house of horrors." (See video below.)

Over 40 years, Henry’s sent hundreds of disabled men from Texas to Iowa where they worked in the West Liberty meat-processing plant for 41 cents an hour, the Des Moines Register reported.

A federal jury determined that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by creating hostile living and working conditions and imposing discriminatory conditions of employment, the Associated Press noted.

The judgment offers $2 million in compensatory damages to each man, plus $5.5 million in punitive damages, but the defunct company is not expected to pay anywhere near that.

The men's lawyer said the eye-opening judgment amount was deserved: "But how do you put a value on decades of lost opportunity? You can't recapture those years ... These men were hidden away for decades, and for others' personal gain. These were humans who were treated like cattle -- like company property, like just another source of income for the company."

Here is the sister of a worker named Keith, talking about the trauma he suffered after decades of work:

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