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Wage and Hour Attorney Top Answers: Can an employer pay a disabled individual less under the FLSA? What types of disabilities might qualify for such an exemption? Does the employer have to request to pay less than the minimum wage?

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Individuals with severe disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn a living just like the rest of us. And there are many non-profits and private employers that employ those with such disabilities. Most of these businesses treat their disabled employees with respect and dignity and pay them a fair wage for the work they perform. Unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Generally, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) mandates that employers pay covered, non-exempt employees at least $7.25 per hour for every hour worked, and time and one-half their employees’ regular wages for every hour over forty worked in a workweek. But the FLSA also contains provisions focused on helping disabled individuals find employment. Under §14(c) employers can get a certificate of authorization to pay less than the federal minimum wage to disabled employees if their disabilities impair their productive capacities for the work being performed. Blindness, mental illness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, alcoholism, and drug addiction are such disabilities.

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A recently settle wage and hour case out of Rhode Island illustrates how an employer can take advantage of the FLSA’s sub-minimum wage exception.

Harold A. Birch Vocational Center and School (Birch) operated a work center where students packaged and sorted goods by hand. It should have paid the disabled student workers a wage commensurate with their individual levels of productivity—as required under the terms of the certificate of authorization. Instead, Birch paid them a flat rate of $1 to $2.01 per day no matter how many hours they worked per day or how much they produced. Birch also falsified documents required to figure out the disabled student workers’ correct pay rates and often did not pay workers for weeks at a time.

As if that was not underhanded enough, Birch also operated without a certificate of authorization between June 1, 2010 and June 1, 2013. So, during that period of time Birch had to pay all covered employees $7.25 per hour for all hours worked.

Birch managed to rack up quite an impressive list of charges: failure to determine wage rates for workers performing similar work; failure to establish the correct sub-minimum wage paid to each worker under §14(c) of the FLSA; failure to maintain records; and failure to pay employees properly under the FLSA. In the end, Birch finally did the right thing and agreed to pay $250,859 in back wages to 60 disabled student workers. Of course, he did so only getting busted and with the threat of a worse fate.

Employers like Birch give a bad name to those who are genuinely trying to help the disabled earn a fair wage. Fortunately, there are experienced wage and hour attorneys that are willing fight to ensure employers can’t skirt employment laws like the FLSA and exploit individuals with disabilities.

If you believe that your employer is not paying you all of your wages, paying you less than minimum wage, unlawfully deducting money from your paycheck, not paying you time and a half for overtime, or is otherwise cheating you out of wages requires contact the minimum wage violation lawyers and overtime claim attorneys at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. You may have a claim under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or Ohio Fair Labor Standards Act. The wage and hour lawyers at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your wage and hour pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call 866-797-6040.


The materials available at the top of this overtime, wage and hour web page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “Am I entitled to overtime?”, “Does my job have to pay me for …”, “My paycheck is not right…” or “What do I do if…”, the your best option is to contact an Ohio overtime attorney to obtain advice with respect to FLSA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

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