Iowa turkey farm ordered to pay more than $1.7 million

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This is a photograph of 5 white turkeys with a blue sky background.

Farm Turkeys

Keith Brown, an Iowa man with a mental disability, worked at an Iowa poultry plant for more than three decades, for wages as low as 0.41 an hour and in dangerous conditions.

Along with 30 other people with mental disabilities who lived full time at the facility, the owners of Henry’s Turkey Services also collected Brown’s Social Security disability payments and used some of that money to cover the operation’s room and board costs, even though it was an unlicensed as a care center.

On Wednesday, a district judge awarded the individuals more than $1.7 million for back pay and damages for a variety of violations of federal minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping laws, according to an article in the Quad City Times. Federal law limits the collection of back pay to the previous three years.

The state shut down the plant in February 2009, after finding an estimated 9,000 separate wage and hour violations, as well as numerous fire safety and licensing violations, triggering a Department of Labor complaint.

The farmer’s owners are currently appealing a $1.1 million penalty imposed by the state. They also face sanctions from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who is suing Henry’s Turkeys Services in federal court.

The National Disability Rights Network highlighted the case of Henry’s Turkey Services in its January 2011 report detailing the dire conditions of people with disabilities working for subminimum wages.

DisAbility Rights Washington, the sponsor of DisAbility Rights Galaxy, is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.