A Davenport, Iowa jury awarded the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) record damages of $240 million from Hill County Farms d.b.a. Henry’s Turkey Service for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC presented evidence that 32 men with intellectual disabilities had been exploited while working on the turkey evisceration line at one of Henry’s Turkeys processing plants.
According to evidence presented by the EOCC, the men underwent abuse from 2007 until the plant closed in 2009, after 20 years of similar mistreatment working for West Liberty Foods, a contractor of Henry’s Turkeys. Specifically, verbal and physical harassment, such as being referred to as “retarded,” “dumb ass” and “stupid.” Physical abuse including: hitting, kicking, restricted freedom of movement, handcuffing, and forcing to carry heavy weights as punishment. In addition, owners and staffers required the men to live in deplorable housing, and “failed to provide adequate medical care when needed.” “Henry’s Turkey supervisors, also the workers’ purported caretakers, were often dismissive of complaints of injuries or pain.”
In support of stories of the men, the EOCC cited priorities from its’ Strategic Enforcement Plan, ADA policies, as well as several expert witnesses, including: Dr. Sue Grant, a nationally recognized expert in the field of care and treatment of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, social workers from the Iowa Department of Human Services, former DHS manager Denise Gonzalez, and the staff of a disability support services provider, Exceptional Persons Inc. of Waterloo, Iowa.
Resulting from the case, each man was awarded $2 million in punitive damages and $5.5 in compensatory damages, in addition to a September 2010 district court order of $1.3 million for unlawful disability-based wage discrimination – a total of $241.3 million. The EOCC also won a wage discrimination judgment on behalf of the men, who had been paid $65 per month, when the average wage paid to a worker without intellectual disabilities was $11-$12 per hour – an estimated range of $28,000-$45,000 in lost income over the last two years.
EEOC representatives, Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien and General Counsel David Lopez, responded to the verdict’s historical outcome, by highlighting intolerance for mistreatment of any worker in the workplace, as well as hopes for a restoration of humanity and vindicated rights to the 32 men affected. In addition, Robert A. Canino, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, condemned Henry’s Turkeys employer for benefitting from the fruits of their labor and completely disregarding how society has learned to fully integrate persons with intellectual disabilities into the mainstream workplace.» Read More
Employers often have an inherent advantage in defending discrimination lawsuits because:
- Employers do not have the burden of proving discrimination, the employee has the burden of proving discrimination;
- Employers have possession of the employment records;
- Employers know of exceptions and loopholes in their company policies;
- Employers can present evidence through witnesses, usually managers, that are skilled public speakers; and
- Employees have to jump through a number of legal procedural hoops.
Employees may even the playing field by:
- Identifying a good case with hard facts capable of proving discrimination;
- Maintaining a detailed log of all events that occur;
- Talking with other employees about their knowledge of similar events;
- Trying to be cooperative and improve your work performance;
- Never complaining about trivial matters, but always complaining immediately about serious harassment, discrimination, or retaliation;
- Always complaining in writing and keeping a copy;
- Being reasonable about the employer’s suggested solution or accommodation;
- Meeting all deadlines for filing charges and lawsuits; and
- Retaining a good lawyer early. Contact Our Employment Lawyers.
Are you a member of a protect class? Protected classes include:
- National Origin
- Prior Equal Employment Opportunity Activity
How are people in your protect class treated in the workplace? Consider:
- Which groups of people are getting the best or worst work.
- Which groups have the best or worst working conditions.
- What is the atmosphere/attitude towards specific groups.
- Whether managers stereotype specific groups.
- Whether certain groups are subject to higher or lower expectations.
Who is causing the problems you are experiencing in the workplace?
- Is it a manager/supervisor or co-worker?
- Is the person the same employee that hired you? This can make proving discrimination more difficult.
- Has this person shown tendencies to discriminate against certain groups?
Are there other employees that are within or outside of your protected group, that are otherwise similarly situated (such as: same position, same experience), that are treated differently?
- If others within your protected group are treated well, but you are the exception, proving discrimination is more difficult.
- If other similar employees outside your protected group are treated better, this can be helpful to proving discrimination.
Do the problems you are having at work affect the terms and conditions of your employment? Terms and Conditions can include:
- Vacation/Sick Time
- Performance Evaluations
- Work Station
A Jackson County, Missouri jury has awarded Susann Bashir, a Muslim and former Kansas City resident 5 million dollars after she was harassed for years at her IT job at AT&T. The punitive damages award is the largest jury verdict in Missouri history for workplace discrimination. After complaining about harassment after converting to Islam for 3 years before she stopped showing up for her job. After a 9 month absence from work, she was fired. Bashir stated, “By firing me, they stole my ability to work at a job I liked.”» Read More
For employee working for private companies, union, or state and local governments, you have 180 calendar days (less than 6 months) from the last date of the discrimination or retaliation to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Simply contacting the EEOC is not the same as actually filing a charge. However, an attorney can file a charge for you and send it to the EEOC. Where and When I Can File an EEOC Charge.
In most discrimination cases, your 180 days begins to run as soon as you receive clear and unambiguous notice that the employer has subjected you, or is in the future going to subject you, to an adverse employment action. It is best to consult an attorney and file a charge as soon as you know the minimally necessary information, and not wait until you know as much as possible.» Read More
If you have evidence of some form of unlawful discrimination, in deciding whether to pursue the case, you should consider what is at stake for you?
Pursing your case may worthwhile for you if you were/are: fired, suspended, laid off in a reduction in force, being transferred or demoted, suffering a significant pay cut, and in some cases denied a promotion.» Read More
Know Your Options.
Covering Your Bases Legally
1. Meet with an attorney to review your termination or severance package. Many employees have claims of which they are unaware such as entitlement to overtime or back wages. Talk to our attorneys about the options available to you. Contact Our Employment Lawyers.
2. If you are offered a severance package, do NOT sign it without reading it first or preferably having an attorney review it. Be aware of whether you are waiving any rights or agreeing to a non-compete clause, for example. You and your attorney may be able to negotiate a better severance package.
3. File for unemployment benefits. Learn more about filing for unemployment benefits here: Georgia Department of Labor
4. Have a plan for health insurance. COBRA is a federal law that allows you to continue your health care coverage after you leave your job for up to 18 months. If your company provides COBRA, consider taking advantage of these rights. COBRA FAQ
5. If you have a 401(k), contact your savings plan administrator to discuss your options.
What You Can Do About Work
1. Be professional throughout the termination process to ensure that you do not ruin professional relationships.
2. Determine when you will receive your final paycheck and when your insurance benefits will end.
3. Inquire about a severance package.
4. Start/Continue your job search. Reach out to your network. Be prepared to discuss why you were laid off in interviews. Stay Positive!
How to Adjust Financially
Lower your bills. Consider negotiating lower rates with vendors and creditors, conserving energy, and eliminating non-essentials.» Read More
Duluth-based gaming company Cadillac Jack Inc. has agreed to settle a retaliation suit for $87,200. Former employee Tracey Tucker, a black woman, filed the suit in September 2011 claiming that she was fired from her position as a contracts manager because she complained about racial and gender discrimination.
Tucker was fired one day after filing the discrimination complaint with the EEOC. She had been employed by the company since October 2006.
Cadillac Jack has maintained their position of denying any wrongdoing or liability throughout the lawsuit and settlement process.» Read More
I fear I may lose my job. What should I do?
Covering Your Bases Legally
- Gather your co-workers’ contact information, especially if they might be a witness.
- Make copies of any documents within your personal access showing your work performance.
- Collect all work related documents, such as paychecks and time sheets.
- Make a list of all company documents which you do not have access to that may support your potential claim. NOTE: Do NOT take company documents which do not belong to you.
- Gather contact information for a supervisor that will provide you a positive reference.
- Keep written records of notable events that occur, particularly those that may support your claim.
What You Can Do At Work
- Make yourself indispensable by identifying ways for your employer to reduce expenses or generate more income.
- Volunteer to pick up the work of employees that have already been laid off or take on additional responsibilities where available.
- Be prepared for what you will say if you are terminated. How you handle this is very important to your future and reputation.
How to Prepare Financially
- Reassess your budget to determine where you are able to save money on expenses. Consider buying in bulk or high-interest savings accounts.
- Try to pay down as much debt as possible.
- Begin to actively search for other employment opportunities.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Lawyers commenting on a $50,700 verdict against Sangria’s Mexican Café in Tucker, Georgia indicate that owners of the restaurant made damaging comments during a 2009 investigation – comments including an admission from the owner fired employees because he feared that they would make false allegations to government agencies. Lawyers for the EEOC said in response “you can’t fire someone because you fear they will go to a government agency.”
The EEOC suit against Sangria’s claimed that the restaurant fired a waitress after she complained she had been subjected to sexually hostile working environment by a male coworker and the owner of the restaurant failed to take action to stop the offensive sexual harassment. The lawsuit also alleged that the victim’s family members (they also worked there) were prevented from doing tasks on her behalf that would have prevented contact between the victim and the aggressor. The victim’s mother was also accused of abandoning her shift even though she had received permission from a shift manager to leave early after a family medical emergency occurred. When the victim and her mother subsequently complained to the EEOC, they and their family members were fired. The owner also fought to keep them from claiming unemployment benefits.
A trial in the United States District Court in front of an eight member jury resulted in a verdict for the victims finding that they had been fired in retaliation for the victim’s harassment complaint. The jury also found that they were entitled to a total of $4,000.00 in back pay, $31,000.00 in compensatory damages and $15,700.00 in punitive damages. A district director for the Atlanta EEOC office stated that the verdict was “significant” and that “it indicates to employers that regardless of their size, they must afford their employees the statutorily protected right to oppose unlawful discrimination without the fear of retaliation.” If you are interested in reading more about the case it is captioned as EEOC v. Sangria’s, No. 1:09-cv-2566.
Have you been discriminated against by your employer because of your race or gender? Is someone at your job sexually harassing you? Have you been fired because you have complained about a hostile work environment? As an employee you should be aware of your rights and be prepared to take action if they are violated. Federal laws are in place to protect your rights and many employment laws include for the payment of compensation to you and your legal counsel when those rights are found to have been violated by an employer. Call Atlanta Employment Attorney J. Stephen Mixon at 770-955-0100 or use our website contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your employment case.
Posted by J. Stephen Mixon. Mr. Mixon is an Atlanta, Georgia employment lawyer. He has been fighting to protect the rights of Georgia’s workers since 1992. Mr. Mixon’s practice is focused on Labor & Employment law and he has many years of experience in handling sexual harassment cases, complaints related to employment discrimination and many other complex legal issues related to business litigation such as contract disputes, business fraud, interference with contractual relations and copyright infringement. Mr. Mixon can be reached at 770-955-0100.
Call Mr. Mixon’s office today to speak to him about your labor and employment law related issues!» Read More