A West Virginia nonprofit will no longer be allowed to pay certain workers with disabilities salaries below the $7.25 federal minimum wage, the Department of Labor announced August 11.
The Buckhannon-Upshur Work Adjustment Center previously was the holder of a 14(c) certificate, named after the provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that certain allows nonprofits and government agencies to waive federal minimum wage requirements for certain workers deemed otherwise unemployable due their disabilities.
This waiver, however, comes with strings attached. Specifically, the certificate holder must demonstrate the person’s disability directly impacts their work productivity and still pay them a “commensurate wage,” based on their productivity, to people in the regular workforce.
The DOL found that Buckhannon-Upshur underpaid 12 workers, who were hired to do late assembly production, and ordered that they be paid $43,370.00 in back wages.
During its investigation, the DOL determined that the nonprofit failed to perform prevailing wage surveys or time studies when setting wage rates. It also allegedly provided falsified information to obtain the certification.
Buckhannon-Upshur also paid a civil penalty of an undisclosed sum.
“This investigation is part of an ongoing strategic enforcement initiative designed to protect workers with disabilities from exploitation, said John DuMont, director of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division’s Pittsburgh District Office, in a news release. “The back wages received by these workers, and the money they will earn by being paid legally, will have a significant positive impact on their lives.
“The resolution of this case should send a strong message – we take our mission very seriously, and will not hesitate to use every enforcement tool available, including revocation of certificates, to ensure that employers do not exploit our most vulnerable workers. Failing to comply with the law is not acceptable.”
Rooted in Rights recently released a trailer of an original documentary, Bottom Dollars, about 14(c) certificates and the effects of subminimum wages on workers with disabilities. You can view the trailer now. Go to the Bottom Dollars page if you are interested in hosting a viewing of the whole documentary.
Photo by Rooted in Rights of Tillman Mitchell, one of the subjects of Bottom Dollars, cleaning a vending machine.