An Indiana organization decided this year to stop paying workers with physical and developmental disabilities less than minimum wage. A certification from the US Department of Labor makes this legal, but Huntington-based Pathfinder Services has pulled out.
DOL issues 14 (c) certificates to employers who assist workers with disabilities. To be approved, they must prove that it would take longer for a disabled worker to perform the same task as a non-disabled worker, and often operate on a piece-rate system.
Pathfinder has a manufacturing facility where people with disabilities perform work contracted out to companies such as packaging products or assembling kits.
Danielle Tips is President and CEO of Pathfinder and said they decided in the fall to end their ability to pay below minimum wages. She said it was part of a long-term plan to become a stepping stone to the regular workforce, but an influx of businesses during the pandemic accelerated it.
“Our philosophical approach is that it’s necessary, yes, but it shouldn’t be the end,” Tips said.
She said other organizations that continue to operate on below-minimum wage certificates should update their expectations about the capabilities of these workers, especially now that technology can increasingly help them with jobs.
Tips urges employers who are struggling to hire to consider workers with disabilities, noting that once they are given an opportunity, they are often loyal to these companies for a very long time.
“The workforce with disabilities is the most neglected workforce and now is the time, more than ever, to really take a look at this workforce and see the contribution it could make to our communities. », She declared.
Eight organizations in Indiana are currently authorized to pay more than 450 disabled workers below the minimum wage, according to DOL data.