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Goodwill Pays Disabled Employees Less Than Minimum Wage

8:13 PM, Jun 8, 2012   |    comments
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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) -- One of the most well-known non-profits in the world is paying some disabled employees less than minimum wage. The National Federation of the Blind is urging a boycott of Goodwill in hopes it hopes it will convince the organization to stop this practice, a practice that is perfectly legal under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The FLSA contains a little known provision that allows certain organizations to pay employees with disabilities less than minimum wage, in some cases just over $1 an hour. The National Federation of the Blind has been trying to change that provision for years with no success. Now, they're going after Goodwill in hopes that other non-profits will follow suit.

"This is simply unfair, discriminatory, and immoral," said Anil Lewis with the National Federation of the Blind.

The organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained Goodwill's certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor that authorizes special minimum wage rates for workers with disabilities.

"The thing that's so very frustrating for me is that the reason this whole law exists is because people don't believe that blind people and people with other disabilities have the capacity to participate in the workforce," said Lewis.

According to the documents, a deaf employee at a Goodwill location in Hinesville, Georgia makes just $1.44 an hour.

"The irony is that the CEO of Goodwill industries is a blind person. He has benefited from our particular efforts in touting to the world that blind people have capacity to the tune of making over $500,000 a year," said Lewis. "I don't know how he reconciles paying other people with disabilities less than minimum wage. To me, that is hypocrisy."

On Friday, Lewis and a few of his colleagues drove down to Goodwill's headquarters in Rockville to try to talk to CEO Jim Gibbons. They walked out a few minutes later after being told to call and make an appointment."

"We have attempted to have a meeting and unfortunately, I don't know why, they have chosen not to meet with us. Many people say that maybe they have something to hide. Maybe they're afraid that our argument is too strong. I don't know what the reason is. Maybe you (9NEWS Now) can get an answer for us," said Lewis.

Goodwill declined 9NEWS Now's request for an interview, but they did release the following statement:

"Goodwill supports changes in the FLSA so long as the right of people with disabilities to maintain employment of their choice is preserved. Across the U.S., 79% of people with disabilities are not working today. The Special Minimum Wage Certificate is an important resource to employ individuals with significant disabilities. The Certificate enables Goodwill and thousands of other employers to provide opportunities for people with severe disabilities who otherwise might not be part of the workforce.

Goodwill's network of 165 local, autonomous, community-based organizations in the United States and Canada employ a total of 105,000 team members, 30,000 of whom have a disability. Our data shows that 64 Goodwill organizations report employing people with significant disabilities under the Special Minimum Wage Certificate. These 64 Goodwills employ approximately 7,300 employees with significant disabilities under the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, with the average hourly wage of $7.47."

The local Goodwill chapter, Goodwill of Greater Washington, does not pay any of their disabled employees less than minimum wage.


 

 

 

 

 

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