STERLING – Self Help Enterprises reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor that clears a path for the nonprofit to regain its subminimum wage certification.
The agency, which has a sheltered workshop, learned in April 2018 that it would lose its certification that allows the organization to pay disabled workers less than the $7.25 federal minimum hourly wage. The action was taken after findings from the labor department’s investigation concluded that nearly 250 workers were exploited.
The investigation revealed Self Help’s failure to conduct wage surveys in a timely fashion or time studies on all of the jobs done by disabled workers.
Self Help was ordered to pay minimum wage to all of its workers going forward and to pay 2 years’ worth of back wages. The agency appealed the government’s decision and the ensuing review enabled the organization to request and receive two extensions for making the payments to workers.
The review was conducted by an independent administrative law judge. The agreement closes the review process which had been open since June 2018. During the process, Self Help was intent on finding a way to regain its certification so it would be financially feasible to give all of its consumers an opportunity to work.
“To allow Self Help to resume serving a portion of the developmentally disabled population that is traditionally unemployed, the administrative staff and board of directors agreed that we needed to find a pathway to have the opportunity to reapply for a Section 14(c) [of the Fair Labor Standards Act] subminimum wage certificate,” Executive Director Carla Haubrich said in a news release.
Self Help must pay all workers minimum wage until it is approved for the certificate.
All pending matters with Department of Labor have been resolved through the settlement agreement, Haubrich said.
“We will now file an application with the department for a subminimum wage certificate. We have been told that it will take 6 to 7 weeks for the application to be processed,” Haubrich said.
All workers who are eligible for back wages will have access to help from a financial adviser who has been hired by Self Help. Haubrich said the settlement provides closure for Self Help and that the process has made the agency stronger.
“We are appreciative of the responsiveness of the DOL to collaboratively reach an agreement and honor our request that the settlement be structured in a way that minimized the impact on our current and future clients who receive government benefits,” Haubrich said.
The certificate Self Help will apply for sets up a formula allowing employers to determine a fair subminimum wage when physical or mental disabilities lower productivity. The wages are calculated as a percentage of the rate paid to experienced workers for similar jobs in the area.