Disabled Workers in New Jersey and Nationwide May Suffer Discrimination

According to data filed with the nation’s Department of Labor (DOL), Goodwill Industries paid disabled workers in at least 10 states an hourly wage of less than 22 cents in 2011. In fact, two Texas locations reportedly paid more than 50 employees less than a dime per hour. Additionally, an Ohio location allegedly paid a disabled worker a paltry three cents per hour. Goodwill franchises in Florida, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin purportedly paid employees 21 cents per hour or less between 2008 and 2011. In contrast, Goodwill executives generally earn at least a six-figure annual income.

A little-known federal law reportedly allows Goodwill Industries and other non-profit groups to pay disabled workers wages that fall below the national minimum. Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay disabled employees based upon their abilities so long as the employer obtains a wage certificate from the DOL. The law, however, was passed in 1938. According to the National Council on Disability’s Clyde Terry, organizations like Goodwill have failed to maintain appropriate wage levels for disabled employees. As a result, Terry believes that disabled persons are often devalued by their employers. He also stated sheltered workshops like those run by Goodwill should be phased out.

Section 14 (c) apparently allows non-profit employers to use so-called time studies to determine the pay rate for disabled employees. The studies reportedly use a stopwatch to determine the amount of time it takes each worker to complete an assigned task. That rate is then compared with the amount of time it takes an employee who is not disabled to complete the same task. Disabled worker pay rates may fluctuate as time studies are allegedly completed once every six months. Goodwill data shows that 69 franchises in the United States employ about 7,300 disabled workers who are currently eligible to receive an hourly wage below the federal minimum of $7.25.

Although Goodwill apparently acted within the limits of federal law, many disabled workers suffer reprehensible and illegal discrimination. Too many employers in New Jersey and across the nation choose to unlawfully discriminate against employees who suffer from a disability as a result of biased thinking. If an individual’s disability does not physically prevent the performance of any essential job duties, an employer has no legal basis to discriminate. If you feel that you suffered discrimination at work as a result of your disability, you are advised to contact a quality employment lawyer to discuss your rights.

The hardworking employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent current and former workers in both New Jersey and New York with legal matters that involve discrimination and harassment at work. To discuss your situation with an experienced advocate, do not hesitate to contact the Resnick Law Group through our website or give us a call at 973-781-1204 or (646) 867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

MLB Adopts New Policy Against Sexual Orientation Harassment and Discrimination in New Jersey and Elsewhere, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 7, 2013
FDNY Settles Unlawful Gender Discrimination Lawsuit for $1.25 Million, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 7, 2013
Additional Resources:

More disabled workers paid just pennies an hour, by Anna Schecter, Monica Alba, and Mark Schone, NBC News


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