Disabled workers paid pennies despite federal minimum wage

Michigan workers compensation lawyer explains why favored work is not always what it seems and how to protect your legal rights.

NBC News reports on a national charity whose executives earn six-figure salaries and pay disabled workers as little as three and four cents an hour. The investigation revealed that Goodwill Industries is permitted to pay disabled workers far less than minimum wage because of a federal law known as Section 14 (c).

This provision gives employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities without a minimum. One franchise in Southeastern Michigan paid a worker only six cents an hour in 2010.

This investigation is fascinating because it reminds us of a problem with workers compensation. Employers can require a disabled worker to perform “favored work.” These jobs are in lieu of paying wage loss benefits under workers compensation. Some jobs are for charities while others simply require a person to stare at a brick wall. The goal is to get the person to quit and give up his or her workers compensation benefits. We have even heard of some employers getting kick backs to offer these phony positions.

What is favored work?

Favored work is a job within a person’s capacity to perform that poses no danger to health and safety. It is not limited to past qualifications and training. Any difference in pay should be made up by workers compensation.

Some employers will offer demeaning jobs that have no value to the company or anyone else. Wage loss benefits will be forfeited if the person quits. This is a strategy used to harass and minimize the payment of workers compensation benefits.

Where to turn for help?

A job offer can be refused if it is beyond medical restrictions or too far from home. A person should also be provided with defined job duties, location, and rate of pay. A bad job offer can be challenged in court and benefits reinstated. Entitlement to wage loss should also resume once a person makes himself or herself available to work.

You should not have to sacrifice your health or dignity just so your employer can save a few bucks. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation with a Michigan workers compensation lawyer. We understand the issues and can help protect your legal rights.

Alex Berman is the founder of Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers. He’s been representing injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Alex has helped countless people obtain workers compensation benefits and never charges a fee to evaluate a case.

Related information:

Video: Injured at work? Advice from a Michigan workers comp lawyer

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Maura Teague.

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