TIFFIN, Ohio – A judge has ordered Seneca Re-ad Industries Inc. to pay more than $54,000 in damages and back pay after ruling that the sheltered workshop wrongly set subminimum wages for three of its employees with disabilities.
The case involves three employees of the Seneca Re-Ad Center, a sheltered workshop in Fostoria. In a petition filed in November with the Department of Labor, the employees said their disabilities, which include visual impairment and Asperger’s syndrome, did not interfere with their work productivity and they should be paid minimum wage.
Special wages are allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act for those with disabilities, given that “the disability actually impairs the worker’s earning or productive capacity for the work being performed. The fact that a worker may have a disability is not in and of itself sufficient to warrant the payment of a subminimum wage.” When a special minimum wage is considered, employers are supposed to compare a worker’s productivity to that of someone without a disability doing the same work to assign a scaled down wage.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that the employer failed to meet the burden of proof that it had accurately assessed the employees’ performance to justify paying less than minimum wage. He determined that the petitioners were not impaired for the work being performed.
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