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Groundbreaking disability discrimination suit seeks justice

Unfortunately for the millions of employed people in Minnesota and across the U.S. that are forced to experience it firsthand, the existence of harassment and prejudice in the workplace cannot be denied. In spite of legislation passed on the state and federal level, it seems that issues like disability discrimination continue to persist. And just as attorneys and advocates work tirelessly to ensure that individual cases of mistreatment receive the attention they deserve, every now and then a case is presented that serves as a truly harrowing reminder that there is so much more to be done to protect disabled workers throughout the country.

A recent lawsuit ruled upon in federal court involved 32 victims of disability discrimination by their employer. Claims of prejudicial workplace conditions and illegal harassment were filed on behalf of the victims by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The defendant in the case, a turkey processing company, operated for over 40 years on the labor of more than 1,000 mentally disabled workers throughout several states. The lawsuit addressed working conditions at one specific labor camp.

Prosecutors in the case accused the defendant of denying victims access to state-funded services, health insurance and disability resources. The company also faced claims of maintaining unsafe work conditions, among others.

Even though the lawsuit was limited to the last two years the company functioned, the case has revealed over 40 years of illegal activity. In fact, the allegations are so varied and horrific in nature that several federal and state agencies filed separate cases against the company.

It is unacceptable that the victims suffered the way they did, and it’s unfortunate that only a small percentage could be represented by the EEOC’s suit. Though, justice was served for 32 people, as each man won $7.5 million in damages.   

Source: USA Today, “Abused disabled Iowa workers awarded $240M,” Clark Kauffman, May 1, 2013

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