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Sterling Employment Law

Can disabled workers receive less than minimum hourly pay?

Workers in Michigan are undoubtedly aware of the federal law that requires employees to be paid a certain amount on an hourly basis. So, too, are workers presumably aware that those who have disabilities are afforded certain rights while at work. However, there are times when employers are allowed to pay a worker less than the minimum wage if he or she is disabled. The legality of this is contingent on the employer having a certificate from the Department of Labor simultaneous to fulfilling certain requirements. If this is violated, then it contradicts the law and could be the basis for a legal filing over a wage claim.

An employer can pay a disabled worker less than the minimum wage if the disability is such that the employee's ability to perform the duties of the job have been reduced. The employer is required to inform the workers in person and in writing that he or she will be paid less than the minimum wage. The employer can give this notice by providing copies of the required certificate. The employer is also required to inform the worker's parent or guardian of this if the situation calls for it.

The disabled worker's pay has to be based on what other employers pay their employees and the ability of the employee to perform the job. The employer is required to check a minimum of one time per year as to how much local employers are paying experienced workers who perform the same job. The pay can change based on this information. If a worker is paid hourly, he or she has to be tested within 30 days of starting work to see if he or she can do the job. Since the ability of the worker can change, there must be another test every six months to reassess ability.

While this law is clear, there could be instances in which workers have their rights violated under the Fair Labor Standards Act and are not accorded the hourly pay they are supposed to receive. This is egregious if it is perpetrated on a disabled worker, but it might happen to any worker. Those who believe there is a wage violation going on need to understand their employee rights with help from an experienced attorney.

Source: Department of Labor, "Know Your Rights -- Employer requirements for paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act," accessed on June 7, 2016

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