DENVER (CBS4) – Just 20 cents an hour — that’s how much some employees at Goodwill claim they’re making because they’re disabled.
The practice is completely legal.
Dozens of people protested the nonprofit on South Broadway on Saturday. They’re upset Goodwill pays some of its employees below minimum wage.
“About 300,000 people who have very severe disabilities, significant disabilities, are paid only pennies an hour in some cases,” protester James Gashel said.
The group is with the National Federation for the Blind. They’re aware that Goodwill is within its legal rights. In fact, the Fair Labor Standards Act states that one can provide for the employment whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by physical or mental deficiency at wages which are lower than the minimum wage.
“You’re teaching the people that they are substandard and they are not,” Gashel said.
But others like Jacob Grein and his parents disagree. Jacob Grein has worked for Goodwill for 11 years, sometimes making just $1 per hour. He’s just happy to have a job.
“His skills are so low that he wouldn’t be able to probably have a job if he was paid a full hourly wage,” Jacob Grein’s father Kenneth Grein said.
Though it might be legal to pay people with disabilities below the minimum wage, the National Federation for the Blind wants to see that law changed. Goodwill is concerned that it might make it difficult for people with disabilities to find work.
“There’s only 20 percent of people with disabilities working and that percentage will shrink if this law changes,” Goodwill spokesperson Vanessa Clark said.
Goodwill has met with NFB representatives locally and nationally. Both sides of the controversy insist their main goal is to provide the best employment for handicapped workers.
The protesters targeted Goodwill even though there are several organizations that hire disabled workers under minimum wage. The protest was one of nearly 80 at Goodwill stores across the country.