STERLING – Self Help Enterprises must pay 215 current and former employees with disabilities nearly $574,000 in back wages as part of its agreement to resolve issues uncovered by a U.S. Department of Labor investigation.
The agency, which has a sheltered workshop, learned in April 2018 that it would lose its certification, which allows the organization to pay disabled workers less than the $7.25 federal minimum hourly wage.
The Department of Labor determined that Self Help failed to pay disabled employees correctly as required by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and attempted to mislead and obstruct its investigation by concealing information and hiding work that had not been properly time-studied.
When Self Help’s substandard wage certification was revoked, the DOL also denied its applications for renewal.
Self Help appealed the decision to revoke its current certificate and deny its applications for renewal, and has subsequently worked with the government agency to address compliance concerns. Cheryl Stanton, administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, approved a comprehensive settlement agreement with the agency that resolves all remaining issues in the case.
In addition to paying back wages, Self Help must provide counseling to employees receiving back pay and train staff on the requirements of substandard wage certification. The nonprofit also must retain an outside consultant for compliance purposes. When Self Help reapplies for its substandard wage certification, it must submit additional information to show it can comply with all requirements.
“Self Help Enterprises’ pay practices denied employees with disabilities the wages they rightfully earned,” Stanton said in a news release. “As a result of the investigation and actions in this case, this employer has agreed to correct all violation issues and to pay these workers the back wages they deserve.”
The Department of Labor has taken steps to offer additional help to impacted Self Help employees. Law enforcement agencies have been updated on the situation.
The settlement, while costly, gives Self Help an opportunity to reapply for its subminimum wage certification, which is needed to make it financially feasible to serve a large number of disabled workers.
Self Help is in the process of filing an application for recertification, but must pay all workers minimum wage until it is approved.