Goodwill has Paid Disabled Workers as Little as 22 Cents an Hour

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

With federal law on its side, Goodwill Industries has been able to pay disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour.


Goodwill, one of the nation’s best-known charities, can get away with paying so little because of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes a provision allowing employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor.


The certificates authorize nonprofits and companies to pay disabled workers as little as they want according to their abilities, NBC News found.


Goodwill generates billions of dollars a year and pays its executives six-figure salaries.


Most special wage certificates are held by nonprofit organizations like Goodwill. But private businesses, including major chains, are able to benefit from the loophole, too.


The Applebee’s restaurant in Westbury, New York, and the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhasset, N.Y., have had student workers making between $3.80 and $5.96 an hour—below minimum wage—because the employees were placed there by the Helen Keller National Center, a school for the blind and deaf, which sets the salary and pays the wages.


The wages of disabled workers are based on how long it takes them to complete a task in comparison to abled workers. Goodwill’s CEO, John Gibbon, who is blind, has defended this practice, explaining to NBC that “It's typically not about their livelihood. It's about their fulfillment. It's about being a part of something.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Disabled Workers Paid just Pennies an Hour – and it’s Legal (by Anna Schecter, NBC News)

Jury Awards Mentally Disabled Men Millions in Case against Iowa Turkey Processor (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Aaron Wallechinsky, AllGov)

98,000 U.S. Disabled Workers Earn Less than $1 an Hour (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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