OKLAHOMA CITY — Goodwill Industries is known for changing lives through the power of work, but one group is accusing them of being unethical with worker pay.
Goodwill is one of about 50 agencies in Oklahoma that provides jobs for people with developmental disabilities and pays them less than minimum wage.
The U.S. Department of Labor allows that practice – FLSA Section 14(c) – if a worker’s disability diminishes how productive they can be.
But the National Federation of the Blind says paying those employees less than minimum wage is demeaning.
“They’re relegated to jobs that have no upward mobility. That do not make a living wage,” Oklahoma chapter President Jeannie Massay said Thursday. “Let’s call it what it is. It’s not a job if you’re making 22 cents an hour.”
But Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma says the lowest wage they pay is three dollar an hour.
More importantly, they say those employees have the option of making less than $7.25 an hour.
Only seven employees do that, we’re told, because a higher wage would disqualify them from receiving state services, such as transportation.
“Our purpose is to prepare them and to build the confidence in themselves so that they can find employment outside of Goodwill,” CEO Chris Daniels said.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services supports the sub-minimum wage option.
Without it, they say thousands of people with disabilities would never be hired.
Sheree Powell, Director of Communications and Community Relations for DHS, said people can earn over $27,000 a year and not lose other benefits.