Important Law Suit

Federal jury in Iowa awards $240 million to the 32 mentally disabled adults” was the headline from the Des Moines Register a few months ago. 

The award was the result of a case against Henry’s Turkey Service.  The case highlighted the abuse that this company did toward individuals with disabilities and as a result of this abuse once again sparked conversation about the relevancy of the Fair Labor and Standards Act 14 ( C ) program. 

The National Disability Rights Network, is the nonprofit membership organization for the Protection and Advocacy System for Individuals with disabilities produced a paper “Segregated and Exploited – A call to Action!” that used as a case study the atrocities that occurred at Henry’s Turkey Service in Atalissa, Iowa.  The story of the workers at Henry’s Turkey Service, a meat processing plant in Iowa, is an appalling example of the abuse that can happen when workers with disabilities are segregated and sheltered away from others.  Henry’s “shipped in” 60 men from Texas where they worked and lived in the company run bunkhouse.  Henry’s paid them an average of $.41 an hour and the individuals also had to pay for their room and board at the bunkhouse – leaving them with only $65 at the end of the month. 

The bunkhouse was a 106 year-old cockroach infested, unheated abandoned school converted to a bunkhouse that had boarded up windows and a cracked foundations.  The residents paid $600 per month in rent for use of the tax-free bunkhouse. 

 A federal jury ruled that Henry’s Turkey Service violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when they paid 32 mentally disabled workers only $65 per month for their full time work on the turkey processing line.

“I’m very pleased the jury made such a powerful statement,” said Ruby Moore, a national disability rights advocate based in Georgia. “People around the country are absolutely aware of this case. It has unveiled some of the horrendous practices faced by people with disabilities.”

The National Disability Rights Network made a series of policy recommendations included in their position paper.
What I think was the take-away was their conclusion.  It reads:
“Many people working in support of segregated and sheltered work don’t think there is another way. In fact, there is. Thirty years ago no one believed there was another option for people with disabilities but to live in large, state-run institutions. The belief was they could never care for themselves; they were too vulnerable or made people too uncomfortable to live among people without disabilities. But soon we saw these human warehouses for what they were and in state after state institutions closed, and now millions of people with disabilities are living, successfully, in their communities. They evolved and adapted and showed us they are more than we believed, as did the rest of the country who recognized the value of having friends and neighbors with disabilities. We witnessed lives changing.

The same can happen in the workplace. Sheltered workshops are just another institution segregating our neighbors away because of our unwillingness to accept that our own preconceived ideas about the workplace might be wrong. It’s time to do things differently.”

Well we agree.  It is time that we in this nation examine the practice of sheltered employment and paying below the minimum wage. We believe everyone should be working in the community. 


CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside

This space is intended to share my thoughts and update the community on issues concerning Morningside and its clients as well sharing inspirational employment stories.

This site is for information and discussion purposes only and does not represent the official views of the Morningside. Any views expressed on this website are those of the individual post author only. Morningside accepts no liability for the content of this site.