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Wages at sheltered workshops fuel debate

Missouri residents may be interested in sheltered workshops and the wages that they pay their employees. Sheltered workshops are non-profit organizations that provide jobs to disabled and handicapped workers. However, many of these workshops pay far less than minimum wage and do so without violating wage laws. One of these is Goodwill Industries, where some employees make as little as 22 cents per hour.

An executive from Goodwill mentioned that, for many employees, the social interaction and personal fulfillment from the job are more important than wages. The co-founder and chief operating officer of Opportunity Works, Inc., however, disagrees with that assessment. She has a son with Down Syndrome and says that it is important now more than ever for disabled individuals to earn a reasonable wage because the governmental programs that used to financially support those them are dwindling away.

The debate over sheltered workshop wages is heated on both sides. In a debate at a council meeting, two individuals argued the issue. While one of the individuals suggested that sheltered workshops should be closed, another man, who was an employee at a sheltered workshop, argued that the workshop provided him with friends and a good use of his time.

Another argument is that workshops should be required to have more competitive employment for employee improvement. The operating officer hopes that governments will provide better regulation in this area, but she acknowledged that private businesses may have to provide the necessary leadership. Individuals who feel that they are being exploited by their employer or paid below minimum wage may choose legal action. An attorney with labor law experience could examine the issue, recommend a course of action and represent them in litigation.

Source: Forbes, "The subminimum wage issue", Judy Owen, July 08, 2013

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