Early last month, a federal jury in the Southern District of Iowa awarded a $240 million verdict to 32 mentally disabled men that suffered through years of slave-like employment in a turkey slaughterhouse operated by Henry’s Turkey Service, also known as Hill Country Farms. Hill Country, a Texas based company, operated the slaughterhouse in Iowa and had been employing mentally disabled men for over four decades. Hill Country offered room and board in an old schoolhouse without central heat. Room and board was part of the employment benefits and calculated as earnings on top of the $2 per day salary. Supervisors that cared for the employees doled out verbal abuse, occasional physical abuse, and manual labor as punishment. The civil trial uncovered one such instance when an employee was handcuffed to his bed and left screaming and crying.
The $240 million verdict was awarded after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proved harassment and discrimination violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The award granted each of the 32 men about $5.5 million in compensatory damages, plus $2 million as punitive damages because Hill Country acted with malice or reckless indifference. Unfortunately, Hill Country “is believed to have no more than $4 million in assets, and… damages awarded by the jury go ‘well beyond’ what is allowed by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.” The EEOC attorney, Robert Canino, said, “I can tell you the EEOC is going to explore every option, and with great diligence, to ascertain every possible source of revenue… to satisfy the judgment.” Hill Country is also liable for over $4 million in fines for violating federal, and state, labor and wage laws.
And so, the mentally disabled ex-employees of Hill Country savored sweet justice for all of about two weeks. [click to continue…]
On May 7, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) brought (and quickly settled) its very first case under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”). The complaint alleged that an employer had illegally gathered genetic information during job applicants’ medical exams.
GINA, which went into effect in 2009, prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions. The Act prohibits, among other things, an employer’s use of the following information:
family medical history,
genetic information about an individual or their family member (such as whether they have an increased chance of developing cancer,
whether an individual or their family member has received or sought genetic counseling, and
whether an individual or their family member has been involved in research that includes genetic testing. [click to continue…]
In November 2012, Madia Law sued a Twin Cities accounting firm on behalf of a learning disabled accountant. The young accountant, who has suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) since he was a child, disclosed his disability to his supervisor at the time of his first performance evaluation.
Despite being fully capable of being successful at the job, the young man wanted to be sure his supervisor knew that he thinks, learns, and works in a different way than others, particularly since he noticed a few comments on his evaluation that seemed to signal a concern with the way he processed information and executed tasks. The accountant felt that it would help everyone involved to be aware of his slight disability. But, soon after disclosing his disability and requesting slight accommodation, he was fired. [click to continue…]
After a two week trial, a Carver County jury awarded Madia law client Dr. Sam Deweese nearly $1.3M in damages from his former clinic.
Dr. Deweese worked as a family practice physician for nearly twenty years at his clinic and earned high praise from his patients. He devoted his entire working life to the institution, committed himself to a high standard of excellence in his profession, and committed a large capital contribution in order to secure his partnership. Dr. Deweese alleged that his clinic’s relationship with him changed after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in summer 2007.
As published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, Kevin M. Clermont & Stewart J. Schwab observed that from 1979-2006, plaintiffs bringing employment law matters (discrimination, wrongful termination, etc) in federal court won only 15% of the time. When paired with the observation that plaintiffs in non job-related matters won 51% of the time, that 15% figure is stunning. Questions as to why there is such an imbalance in employment law compared to other areas of law have been the focus of many journalists, lawyers and academics. But for attorneys who represent plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, there is one key factor worth focusing on: properly preparing a case to survive motions for dismissal, particularly summary judgement motions.
It’s been 3 years since Madia Law opened and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to represent so many good and decent people going through tough times. I hope and believe that we’ve changed many lives for the better.
For our three year anniversary, we’ve expanded and updated the Madia Law website to hopefully provide more information to people looking for help with employment litigation and broader civil rights issues. I hope that the new website will be a strong resource for individuals who need quick information and will encourage them to seek further consultation and actual legal advice.
“Jill” (name changed for confidentiality) worked at a large corporation for nearly twenty years as a maintenance worker and excelled. However, she injured her back on the job and needed medical attention. Ultimately, her doctor gave her work restrictions stating that she could not lift, push, or pull more than 40 pounds. She continued working at her position, with her restrictions, and continued to excel.
One morning, her employer called her into a meeting and told her that she was terminated because her medical restrictions prevented her from performing the essential functions of her position.
Congress passed the LLFPA to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2007 holding in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc. In that case, Justice Alito led a 5-4 majority in concluding that Ledbetter could not sue Goodyear under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for gender based pay discrimination that she had experienced for almost twenty years because she did not file her charge within six months of the original decision (made decades earlier) to pay her less than her male counterparts.
The law firm Madia Law LLC is located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Madia Law's employment law attorneys and civil rights lawyers represent victims of employment discrimination, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination, civil rights violations such as excessive police force, and more. Madia Law practices in state and federal court throughout the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and greater Minnesota, including: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Duluth, Edina, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Eagan, Woodbury, Richfield, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Blaine, St. Cloud, Lakeville, Brooklyn Park, Rochester, Superior, Hudson, River Falls, New Richmond, Eau Claire, Madison, Menomonie, La Crosse, and more.