2013 was not the best year for Goodwill. Although it is a nonprofit organization that claims to offer both employees and customers a helping hand, it has faced multiple accusations of grossly underpaying its disabled employees. According to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the charitable corporation’s payroll policies allow for “payment of wages as low as pennies per hour” for workers with disabilities.
Given Goodwill’s reputation for helping the disadvantaged, this certainly seems like a concern. But, is the nonprofit organization really guilty of this dreadful accusation?
After a little investigation, PolitiFact Georgia found that only 64 of Goodwill’s affiliate agencies paid disabled workers below the minimum wage, affecting a total of 7,000 workers. (Other reports suggested that these same workers were paid anywhere from 22 cents to 4 dollars per hour.)
While this may seem illegal, it turns out that the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, a provision enacted under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, actually allows employers to pay those with disabilities below the minimum wage.
While PolitiFact’s investigation also revealed that the Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, and Columbus, Georgia Goodwill affiliates all pay their disabled workers at least the minimum wage ($7.75/hour), it also found that two of them possess the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, meaning that they could decide to lower wages and still be within their legal rights—a frightening prospect, to say the least.
On October 31st, 2013, the NFB rounded up 170,000 signatures calling for Goodwill to amend their policies, and force all of their affiliates to pay disabled workers the minimum federal wage. The fight continues in Washington, D.C., where concerned lawmakers are challenging Goodwill’s status quo and pushing for the rights of all workers.
Contact Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432 for legal questions or concerns.