While a jury deliberates whether Henry’s Turkey Service violated federal law in its treatment of mentally disabled workers, records show the company hasn’t paid its penalties in previous judgments related to the men.
The Iowa Division of Labor assessed $1.16 million in fines against the Texas-based company, according to Iowa Workforce Development records.
After multiple appeal levels that went through the district court up to the Iowa Court of Appeals, the department’s citations held, Iowa Workforce Development spokeswoman Kerry Koonce said.
She said that once her department received a final favorable judgment, Henry’s Turkey Service no longer had operations in Iowa and her department doesn’t have authority in Texas to pursue the fines.
She added that the money that could be collected from the fines would be deposited into the state’s general fund and would not go to the individuals.
U.S. District Judge Charles Wolle, who is presiding over the civil trial against Henry’s this week in U.S. District Court, Davenport, previously ordered Henry's to pay $1.3 million in lost wages. That money hasn’t been paid, records show.
Meanwhile, the jury returns this morning after it was unable to reach a verdict after five hours of deliberation Tuesday.
Henry's attorney David Scieszinski gave a closing argument at the civil trial that began with a definition of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which his client is accused of violating. He then criticized the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for not putting on the witness stand any of the disabled men, some of whom worked for Henry’s for more than 30 years.
“Why didn’t those boys come here, sit on the witness stand and share their stories,” Scieszinski said.
When given an opportunity for a rebuttal closing argument, EEOC attorney Robert Canino said the defense also had the right to solicit testimony from any of the men.
“It’s just like what happened to Johnny Kent,” Canino said.
Kent, one of the disabled men who worked for Henry’s at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa, was kicked by one of Henry’s supervisors, Randy Neubauer. West Liberty Foods, which owned the plant, chided Neubauer for “abusive behavior” and asked that he be terminated.
The company’s current owner and president, Kenneth Henry, testified Monday that he spoke with West Liberty Foods and Neubauer about the incident, but he didn’t talk to Kent.
There was much testimony about the deteriorating conditions at the bunkhouse in Atalissa, Iowa, where the disabled workers lived, including insect and rodent infestations, a leaking roof that caused mold throughout and boarded-up windows that still let in a cold draft. In his closing argument, Scieszinski, who is from Wilton, blamed the conditions of the bunkhouse not on his client but on the city of Atalissa.
When Henry’s set up its operation in Iowa in the 1970s, it converted an old school in Atalissa into a bunkhouse for dozens of its disabled workers. The company and Atalissa agreed to co-own the bunkhouse, also sharing maintenance duties, according to testimony at the trial.
Scieszinski made it sound Tuesday as if the city was the one who dropped the ball on keeping up with the repairs.
“The bunkhouse belonged to the city,” he said. “The landlord is responsible for the condition of the facility they rent out to a tenant. The city was responsible to maintain the bunkhouse to a habitable condition. Any failure was on their part.”