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Hourly wages paid to disabled Texas workers: Pennies -- literally

A section of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) enables certain employers to acquire specialized minimum wage certificates which enable them to pay disabled workers below the minimum wage with no limit to how low they go. The FLSA, which was passed in 1938, still provides a great service and a means of protection for workers in The United States, but that section of the law -- Section 14 (c) -- enabled one organization to pay disabled workers in Texas hourly wages that were less than 10 cents per hour. This was in 2011, not the 1930s.

Documents obtained by a major television news network showed that disabled individuals employed by Goodwill Industries, a major international non-profit organization eligible for the Section 14 (c) waiver, paid 51 disabled workers in Forth Worth less than 10 cents per hour. Some of those workers earned as little as four cents per hour for work that was listed as assembly. The 'winning' lowest wage-payer, however, was a Goodwill franchise operating in Ohio which paid a disabled worker three cents per hour for hanging clothes.

The documents relevant to the pay rates were obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor though the Freedom of Information Act. The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency, released some critical comments on the pennies-per-hour revelations and described the disabled individuals as being devalued by their employers. A Goodwill Industries spokesperson responded to the criticisms by saying it was misleading to "cherrypick" the low hourly rates and called them extraordinary situations.

Executives of Goodwill Industries are known to earn salaries in the six-figure range and, despite the workers in Texas and elsewhere who earned extraordinarily low hourly rates, they claim that the organization's average wage paid to their disabled workers is $7.47 per hour. Although Goodwill Industries may have found a legal loophole that enables them to pay a small portion of its workforce wages that are far less than the federal minimum, any employee who feels that they are not being compensated fairly for their work should seek the advice and assistance of a third party who possesses a firm grasp of the applicable labor laws. Despite the hopefully rare and extraordinary loopholes, the labor laws in our country were designed to protect workers who believe they are not being treated fairly.

Source: Source: wncn.com, "Disabled workers at Goodwill paid pennies an hour," Aug. 10, 2013

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