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Rhode Island Workers with Disabilities Underpaid, Feds Say

June 20, 2013

The federal government ruled on June 13 that approximately 200 Rhode Island workers with disabilities are owed back pay as a result of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violation.

The workers are associated with Training Through Placement (TTP), a nonprofit, state-licensed vocational training center for people with disabilities based in North Providence.

The Justice Department‘s Civil Rights Division found that TTP had severely underpaid the workers with disabilities.

Under the terms of FLSA (pdf), organizations that employ workers who have disabilities can be given a certificate allowing them to pay those workers less than the minimum wage.

However, following an investigation, the Civil Rights Division determined that TTP “failed to determine the appropriate sub-minimum wage to be paid to each worker as allowed [by] FLSA,” according to a Department of Labor (DOL) press release.

The Civil Rights Division also said that TTP failed to pay employees for all hours worked, did not keep up accurate payroll records, and falsified documents in an attempt to mislead investigators.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division revoked TTP’s certificate allowing it to pay workers under the minimum wage.

“The intent of [FLSA] is clear — that workers with disabilities deserve an opportunity to be given meaningful work and receive an income, and employers that provide those opportunities may pay such workers below the current federal minimum wage, but only when key conditions are met,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, acting deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division.

“However, not all employers are vigilant in maintaining a well-run program that honors that intention and is in full compliance with the letter of the law,” she added.

TTP has 60 days to appeal the decision.

— by Matthew Ozga

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