Report Released on FY 2013 Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch

The Office of Personnel Management has released its Fiscal Year 2013 report on “Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch.” In Fiscal Year 2013, the federal government hired 1,389 people with targeted disabilities – a category that includes many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – representing 1.32 percent of new hires overall. Report statistics on targeted disabilities, however, are presented in the aggregate and do not specify numbers related to the hiring of people with I/DD. In a recent press release, Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc, stated, “While the last few years have seen some modest increases in the numbers of people with disabilities employed by the federal government, The Arc remains deeply concerned that many people with the most significant disabilities, including jobseekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are being left behind.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Releases State by State Data for Fiscal Year 2013

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released data for fiscal year 2013 with breakdowns by state and by resolution of complaint for the 93,727 charges (complaints) of workplace discrimination filed with the agency.   In FY13, there were 25,957 complaints of disability discrimination in employment which represented 27.7% of all discrimination complaints filed with EEOC and a 1.2% increase over FY 2012.

Department of Justice Releases A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations

The US Department of Justice released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations in order to incorporate the changes made by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. The NPRM makes changes to Titles II and III ADA regulations to amend the definition of disability which was broadened by the ADAAA and expand the definition of major life activities by including major bodily functions.  The NPRM includes examples of impairments, such as intellectual disability, that should easily be found to substantially limit a major life activity and cause the necessary individualized assessment of the impairments to be simple and straightforward.    The Title I ADA regulations were amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2011.  The NPRM will align the definitions in Titles II and III with those in Title I.  The NPRM is open for comment for 60 days until March 31, 2014.

Update on Henry’s Turkey Farm Case

Due to a provision in federal law, the $240 million jury award for employment discrimination and harassment that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) won for 32 men with intellectual disability may have to be reduced to $50,000 each.  A jury in Iowa awarded the larger sum to the men based on the harm they suffered while employed at a turkey processing plant in Iowa.  The jury’s verdict was the largest verdict ever obtained by the EEOC in an employment discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The Iowa jury’s recognition of the inherent value of the lives of individuals with intellectual disability was historic. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 limits damages for discrimination to $50,000 for punitive and compensatory damages combined in cases where the employers have 15 to 100 employees.  If the award is reduced by the court, it will not affect the $1.37 million award the men won previously due to wage discrimination.   Despite the fact the Henry’s Turkey Service is believed to have no more than $4 million in assets, EEOC has pledged to pursue the men’s awards vigorously.  Kenneth Henry, president of Henry’s, has said he will appeal the decision.

Over four decades, Henry’s sent hundreds of men who had disabilities from Texas to Iowa to work at a West Liberty meat-processing plant for wages far below minimum wage.  The men lived in a 100-year-old former school building that had been converted to a bunkhouse.  Federal law limited EEOC to the final two years of Henry’s operation which limited the number of workers who could claim compensation.  Henry’s has been fined by the US Department of Labor and Iowa Workforce Development for labor law violations for a total of $2.96 million. To read The Arc’s statement, visit our website.

EEOC Releases Updated Publications on Employment Rights of People with Specific Disabilities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released four revised publications on protection against employment discrimination on the basis of a disability. The publications describe how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to job applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disability. Visit the EEOC website to view the full question and answer series.

Historic Verdict on Behalf of Workers with Intellectual Disabilities

Thirty-two men with intellectual and developmental disabilities each were awarded $2 million in punitive damages and $5.5 million in compensatory damages by an Iowa jury for discrimination and harassment they endured while working at Henry’s Turkey Farm. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case against Henry’s Turkey Farm alleging discrimination and harassment for the treatment they received while working at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa. For decades, Henry’s sent hundreds of men with I/DD from Texas to Iowa to work for 41 cents an hour. The men lived in a 100-year old Atalissa school building that had been converted to a bunkhouse. The Atalissa operation was closed down in 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed the case, was restricted to the final two years of operation limiting the number of workers who could seek compensation. The settlement is groundbreaking in that the jury put a value on the lives of men with I/DD comparable to that of men without disabilities.

Settlement Reached in Employment Discrimination Lawsuit on Behalf of an Employee with an Intellectual Disability

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entered into a settlement agreement with Alia Corporation, a franchisee with over 20 fast-food chain restaurants in central California, to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of an employee with an intellectual disability.  Derrick Morgan was a good employee who was promoted by previous management from crew member to supervisor.  When Alia took over, Mr. Morgan was demoted, his hours were cut, and his hourly wages were reduced.  He was forced to find other employment and resign.

The three-year consent decree requires Alia to hire an equal employment opportunity monitor, establish anti-discrimination policies and procedures, develop a complaint process, track complaints, and provide training to human resources and management employees.  Alia agreed to pay Mr. Morgan $100,000.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission releases data on private sector job discrimination in 2012

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released data on private sector job discrimination charges filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2012, reporting nearly 100,000 charges. The EEOC received 26,379 charges alleging discrimination on the basis of a disability, or 26.5 percent of all charges. The EEOC provided data tables showing total charge receipts and resolutions for claims filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including detailed ADA charge data by impairment/charge basis.

Disability-related employment discrimination claims increased in 2012

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported a slight decrease in employment discrimination complaints it received in fiscal year 2012. However, EEOC received a higher number of disability-related employment discrimination complaints in FY 2012 than it had during the previous year. In 2012, 26,379 complaints alleging disability employment discrimination were filed with EEOC, an increase over 2011’s 25,742 complaints. Claims of employment discrimination based on disability represented 26.5% of total complaints in FY 2012.

Judge orders payment of $1.3 million to former Henry’s Turkey Farm employees with intellectual disabilities

Hill Country Farms, Inc. of Goldthwaite, Texas has been ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa to pay 32 men with intellectual disabilities $1.3 million for violating their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The payments are for work done by the employees at Henry’s Turkey Service processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa between 2007 and 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the lawsuit against the company for alleged employment discrimination.

West Liberty Foods contracted with Henry’s Turkey Services paying as much as $11,000 per employee per week for their work. Henry’s Turkey Services paid severely substandard wages of $15 per week to the employees, far less than the minimum wage earned by non-disabled employees in Iowa even though they were equally productive. The men lived in a 100-year-old former schoolhouse a few miles from the plant. The schoolhouse was closed down by the state fire marshal because it was bug-infested, had rodent problems, inadequate heating, and a roof that leaked in several places. Henry’s Turkey Farm had argued that it should receive credit for having provided living quarters. Henry’s Turkey Farm deducted about $1,000 per month from each employee’s wages to cover room and board and expenses and also took out hundreds of dollars per month from each of the men’s personal Social Security SSI and disability benefit accounts to cover expenses. Some of the men had worked at the plant for over 25 years.

The EEOC’s suit also alleges that the company verbally and physically abused and harassed the men by referring to them as “retarded,” “dumb ass,” “stupid,” hitting, kicking, unnecessarily restricting their freedom, and imposing harsh punishments and requiring them to live collectively in substandard living conditions and failed to provide proper health care.  The EEOC’s trial on the remaining issues regarding mistreatment of the workers is currently scheduled for March 2013.