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Goodwill accused of underpaying disabled employees

Charitable organization Goodwill has been accused of underpaying disabled employees, according to recent calls for a boycott initiated by the National Federation of the Blind. A spokesperson for the disability rights group says that Goodwill and many other organizations are taking advantage of a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act that provides for an exemption from the federal minimum wage.

A spokesperson for a regional Goodwill branch told reporters that they pay well above minimum wage and that a boycott could negatively affect the workers that the group is trying to advocate for by reducing revenues in the stores that help pay their wages.

In particular, the National Federation of the Blind accuses Goodwill of paying disabled employees less than one dollar per hour. It is not clear whether the specific allegations against Goodwill are true or not, but an estimated 75,000 people in the United States work for less than one dollar per hour.

While the low pay may be legal under specific terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is still not acceptable for employers to discriminate or pay less based on disability status.

The organizers with the NFB say that laws that allow disabled employees to be paid less than other employees are similar to laws that have allowed other types of discrimination in the past.

"At one point it was illegal for women to vote. At one point, African-Americans were three-fifths of a human. We've had policies in the past in this country that we recognize now, after the fact, that they were immoral and discriminatory and we're hoping that this will be seen as the same," said the NFB's Director of Strategic Communications. 

Source: ABC2News, "Critics say organization lowballs wages for people with disabilities" Jeff Hager, Sept. 10, 2012

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