[Nfbnet-members-list] FW: Disability Rights Ohio and Other Advocates File Complaint on Behalf of Sheltered Workshop Employees

Kuhnke, Kristian KKuhnke at nfb.org
Thu Nov 19 15:49:10 UTC 2015



Stacy Brannan-Smith
Communications Specialist
Disability Rights Ohio
800-282-9181, ext. 101
<mailto:sbrannan-smith at disabilityrightsohio.org>sbrannan-smith at disabilityrightsohio.org

John G. Paré, Jr.

Executive Director for Advocacy and Policy

National Federation of the Blind

410-659-9314, ext. 2218

410-917-1965 (cell)

<mailto:jpare at nfb.org>jpare at nfb.org

Samantha Crane, J.D.

Legal Director, Director of Public Policy

Autistic Self Advocacy Network


<mailto:scrane at autisticadvocacy.org>scrane at autisticadvocacy.org

Disability Rights Ohio and Other Advocates File 
Complaint on Behalf of Sheltered Workshop Employees

November 19, 2015

COLUMBUS, OHIO – After working for an average of 
$2.50 an hour for more than three years, three 
Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) clients are asking 
for fair pay from Seneca Re-Ads, a sheltered 
workshop run by the County Board of Developmental 
Disabilities in Seneca County. The employees’ 
work duties include cutting and assembling 
samples for flooring company Roppe Industries, a 
private corporation. Through a novel and 
potentially precedent-setting procedure, the 
three DRO clients have asked the U.S. Department 
of Labor (USDOL) to review their claims. 
petition, which is supported by the National 
Federation of the Blind, the Autistic Self 
Advocacy Network, and the Baltimore law firm of 
Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, requests that USDOL 
review the clients’ wages and the means by which the current wages were set.

Since the 1930s, federal law has permitted 
employers to pay workers with disabilities less 
than minimum wage, but only if the lower wage is 
necessary to ensure employment opportunities, and 
on the condition that each worker is paid a wage 
commensurate with his or her productivity as 
compared to workers without disabilities. The law 
contains a little-known provision allowing 
workers with disabilities to petition the USDOL 
for an administrative review of their wages in an expedited process.

Joe Magers, Pam Steward, and Mark Felton are 
among the first workers with disabilities ever to 
utilize the petition process to seek a review of 
their wages by the USDOL. They believe that their 
disabilities, which include visual impairments 
and autism, do not impair their workplace 
productivity, and that Seneca Re-Ads’ method of 
calculating wages fails to fairly measure their 
productivity or take into account the prevailing 
wage for similar highly skilled production work 
in the community. Magers, Steward, and Felton are 
also seeking compensation for unpaid hours of 
work in which they were required to attend 
mandatory staff meetings and safety trainings.

“Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the workshop 
is permitted to pay less than minimum wage but 
only if the workshop follows the procedures laid 
out in the law, which wasn't done here,” said 
Barbara Corner, attorney and Employment Team 
Leader for DRO. “Our clients’ disabilities do not 
preclude them from working hard and even using 
heavy machinery, and they deserve and want the 
opportunity to earn as much as workers without disabilities.”

"Sheltered workshops often make self-fulfilling 
prophesies that people with developmental 
disabilities simply can't be as productive as 
people without disabilities,” adds Samantha 
Crane, Legal Director for the Autistic Self 
Advocacy Network. “Our clients haven't been given 
the chance they need to earn even a minimally 
decent wage. They deserve the same basic 
protections that many people without disabilities take for granted."

With the filing of this petition, USDOL has 40 
days to assign an administrative law judge and 
hold a hearing. At the hearing, Seneca Re-Ad must 
prove that it followed the rules and paid an 
appropriate wage, and if the administrative law 
judge finds that Seneca Re-Ad failed to comply 
with its legal obligations, the workers must be 
paid minimum wage for their labor.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National 
Federation of the Blind, said, “This case 
demonstrates the fundamentally arbitrary manner 
in which wages for workers with disabilities are 
set by many entities that hold 14(c) 
certificates, and how this antiquated, 
discriminatory employment model, based on false 
assumptions and low expectations, relegates these 
workers to second-class status. We hope that the 
Department of Labor acts swiftly to correct the 
injustice that is being perpetrated upon these workers.”


About Disability Rights Ohio: Disability Rights 
Ohio is the federally and state designated 
Protection and Advocacy System and Client 
Assistance Program for the state of Ohio. The 
mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate 
for the human, civil and legal rights of people 
with disabilities in Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio 
provides legal advocacy and rights protection to 
a wide range of people with disabilities.

About the National Federation of the Blind: The 
National Federation of the Blind knows that 
blindness is not the characteristic that defines 
you or your future. Every day we raise the 
expectations of blind people, because low 
expectations create obstacles between blind 
people and our dreams. You can live the life you 
want; blindness is not what holds you back.

About the Autistic Self Advocacy Network: The 
Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is a 
national, private, nonprofit organization, run by 
and for individuals on the autism spectrum. ASAN 
provides public education and promotes public 
policies that benefit autistic individuals and 
others with developmental or other disabilities. 
Its advocacy activities include combating stigma, 
discrimination, and violence against autistic 
people and others with disabilities; promoting 
access to employment, health care and long-term 
supports in integrated community settings; and 
educating the public about the access needs of 
autistic people. ASAN takes a strong interest in 
cases that affect the rights of autistic 
individuals to participate fully in community 
life and enjoy the same rights as others without disabilities.

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