Iowa won’t pursue criminal charges against a Texas company that’s accused of exploiting developmentally disabled workers at a turkey plant in eastern Iowa.
According to the Des Moines Register, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office says the civil penalties that other agencies have obtained against Henry’s Turkey Service and its owners will hold the company accountable and serve as a deterrent.
Hill Country Farms, of Goldthwaite, Texas, does business as Henry’s Turkey Service. For years it supplied the workers to a turkey processing plant in West Liberty.
U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor ordered Hill Country Farms and its president, Kenneth Henry, in April to pay $1.76 million in back wages and damages for repeatedly violating federal labor laws by not paying the minimum wage or overtime to 31 disabled men.
A federal lawsuit was filed against the company on April 6 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency claims in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Davenport, Iowa, that the workers were paid just $65 a month and were subjected to abusive verbal and physical harassment and required to live in a dilapidated bunkhouse that the agency described as ‘deplorable and sub-standard living conditions.’ The men also were denied adequate medical care when needed, the agency said.
The men were employed since the 1970s by Henry’s Turkey Service, which contracted for them to work at the meatpacker. They lived in a boarded-up house with only space heaters until a call to a state abuse hot line prompted an investigation and decision by the state to close the house in February and move the men to centers in Waterloo.