[Nfbnet-members-list] Sheltered Workshop and Honda of America Manufacturing Sued for Disability Discrimination

Danielsen, Chris CDanielsen at nfb.org
Sat Dec 16 02:29:03 UTC 2017

Sheltered Workshop and Honda of America Manufacturing Sued for 
Disability Discrimination

Sheltered Workshop Employee who Earned Subminimum Wages Brings Unique 
Employment Discrimination Action

Yesterday, Michael A. Denoewer, an individual with autism, filed suit 
in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio 
against his former employer, U-CO Industries, a sheltered workshop 
located in Marysville, Ohio, and Honda of America Manufacturing 
(Honda), for which U-CO is a Tier 1 Supplier.

Mr. Denoewer alleges that U-CO Industries, his former employer, 
discriminated against him because of his disabilities when it failed 
to evaluate him for jobs in the workshop that he was otherwise 
qualified to perform and that provided higher pay, greater 
opportunities for advancement, and additional training opportunities. 
Instead, during the nearly seven-and-a-half years that he was 
employed by U-CO Industries, Mr. Denoewer was relegated to piece-rate 
work for which he received as little as $1.38 per hour after taxes. 
Mr. Denoewer asserts that these actions were based on erroneous 
assumptions and stereotypes about his disabilities, and not on any 
objective assessment of his abilities, in violation of the Americans 
with Disabilities Act.

Mr. Denoewer's lawsuit against Honda is one of the first of its kind 
to be brought for aiding and abetting a sheltered workshop's 
discrimination. Honda contracts with U-CO Industries for parts that 
are used in Honda's new vehicles. As a Production Associate at U-CO 
Industries, Mr. Denoewer worked to assemble materials for Honda's 
Owner's Manuals. Because U-CO Industries is a Tier 1 supplier for 
Honda, a coveted designation that allows the workshop to supply Honda 
with components that go directly into new vehicles, Honda, in turn, 
closely monitors U-CO's operations, labor costs, workforce 
composition, and workplace methods. Mr. Denoewer alleges that Honda 
aided, abetted, incited, and compelled U-CO into doing acts declared 
discriminatory under Ohio law, including discriminating against him 
on the basis of disability by relegating him to less desirable 
positions within the workshop.

"Paying workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage reflects 
low expectations based on false perceptions of our capacity," said 
Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, 
which is assisting in this litigation. "Relegating workers like 
Michael Denoewer to low-paying, dead-end work based solely on the 
characteristic of disability is the very definition of 
discrimination. The National Federation of the Blind is committed to 
making sure that workers with disabilities are valued for what we can 
do and afforded the basic rights to which all workers are entitled."

"Michael Denoewer understands that he has rights like any other 
employee and that U-CO Industries and Honda have obligations to 
evaluate him on the merits, not based on unproven and erroneous 
assumptions about his capabilities," said Regina Kline, an attorney 
for the Plaintiffs. "That an employer holds itself out as a special 
employer of people with disabilities does not immunize it from the 
obligations that attach to any other employer under the ADA. 
Moreover, contractors must be aware of the labor conditions in 
sheltered workshops to avoid aiding and abetting discrimination. It 
vitiates the very purpose of disability employment programs to deny 
employees like Michael Denoewer the opportunity to advance within the 
workshop's operations."

Marc Maurer, another attorney for the Plaintiffs, explained, "The ADA 
and its provisions prohibiting employer discrimination flow from the 
presumption that people with disabilities have value and can 
contribute in the workplace and society. Paying workers with certain 
characteristics subminimum wages and refusing to consider them for 
jobs for which they are otherwise qualified sends the false message 
that they have no value and violates the law."

The Complaint is available at 


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