How Fair is the Fair Labor Act? Corporations and Nonprofits Take Advantage of Legal Loophole

One of the nations best-known charities is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour and its perfectly legal.  This is because of a 75-year-old legal loophole according to a recent NBC news report.

Nonprofit groups have taken advantage of Fair Labor Standards Act Section 14(c), passed in 1938, which allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor.  These certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage.  Almost all of these certificates are held by nonprofit organizations and more than 216,000 disabled workers are affected by this archaic law.  The nonprofit certificate holders also have the ability to place employees in outside, for-profit workplaces, while still setting the salaries and paying the wages.

Critics of Section 14(c) have targeted much of their frustration towards these nonprofits where wages are often just pennies an hour even as some of these groups receive government funding.  There is currently a new bill before Congress that would repeal Section 14(c) and make sub-minimum wages illegal across the board.  According to Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, “it is clearly and unquestionably exploitation.”  Many members of Congress agree.  If repealed, it sends a strong message that those with disabilities are just as valuable as others and should be allowed to reach their full potential.

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