More Federal Action Taken Against Turkey Company

After EEOC filed a lawsuit April 6, the U.S. Labor Department has obtained a partial summary judgment requiring Henry's Turkey Service and its president to pay $1.76 million in back pay and damages.

The U.S. Labor Department announced April 27 it has obtained a partial summary judgment requiring Goldthwaite, Texas-based Henry's Turkey Service and its president, Kenneth Henry, to pay $1.76 million in back wages and liquidated damages for violating minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa. The money will go to 31 workers with disabilities who worked at the plant and was awarded in a judgment issued in a U.S. District Court in Davenport, Iowa.

DOL's Wage and Hour Division investigated Henry's Turkey -- it had conducted investigations of the company in 1997 and 2003, as well -- and filed a lawsuit. The previous Wage and Hour investigations concluded the comapny did not pay workers overtime for more than 40 hours per week; each time, according to DOL, Henry's Turkey paid back wages and promised to comply with the FLSA in the future.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission sued Henry's Turkey April 6 in connection with the West Liberty plant. The lawsuit charged that Henry's Turkey discriminated against the 31 workers and exploited their intellectual disabilities, subjected them to verbal and physical harassment, restricted their freedom of movement, and required them to live in substandard living conditions. The men had worked for 20 years as part of a contract between Henry's Turkey and West Liberty Foods, according to EEOC, which said April 6 that Henry's Turkey's operations were halted in 2009.

"Working on a poultry processing line is a particularly difficult and dangerous job,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "Henry's Turkey Service exploited vulnerable employees who have a right to, and deserve, every penny that they earned."

According to DOL, Henry's provided in-kind care, room, and board, serving as the workers' caretaker as well as the designated representative payee of their Social Security benefits. "Henry's Turkey Service claimed credit for the food, housing and care against its wage obligation; however, the company also reimbursed itself for those expenses using the workers' Social Security benefits," the agency's news release stated. "The court found that the company failed to show that it incurred any costs above the amount received from the Social Security benefits and denied the credit toward the workers' wages."

The judgment requires that the defendants pay $880,777 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.

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