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DOL Cites Florida Employer for Improperly Paying Disabled Workers Sub-Minimum Wage


On September 29th, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that Pine Castle Inc.—a Jacksonville, FL-based non-profit organization—has agreed to pay nearly $15,000 in back wages to nearly four dozen employees. The employees are all adults who have an intellectual or developmental disability.

The federal agency contends that the North Florida not-for-profit organization violated federal minimum wage regulations by failing to provide proper career support services. In this article, our Miami employment lawyers discuss the allegations raised by the DOL and provide a brief overview of the relevant provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

DOL Allegations: Non-Profit Organization Failed to Provide Adequate Services  

Pine Castle Inc. provides support services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Part of their core mission is the laudable goal of empowering people. In doing so, they teach skills, arrange activities, offer job training, and even offer some vocational opportunities. Similar to any other employee, an adult who has a disability is protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other state and federal labor laws.

That being said, the FLSA contains an exception that allows companies and organizations to pay workers a sub-minimum wage if they simultaneously provide extensive support services that offer a greater overall value. In this case, the Department of Labor alleges that Pine Castle Inc. failed to provide adequate support services to nearly 50 employees, triggering minimum wage violations. The Jacksonville non-profit organization will pay more than $14,400 in back wages to affected employees. 

Understanding Section 511 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 

Federal law was reformed to help give intellectually and developmentally disabled workers better access to employment opportunities. When certain conditions are satisfied, an employer can pay these workers less than minimum wage. However, there are strict rules regarding the services that the employer must provide. Under Section 511 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, employers relying on the FLSA minimum wage exception must:

  • Provide career counseling services; and
  • Provide work with the state vocational rehabilitation agency.

These services are designed to help increase an employee’s skills, independence, and self-sufficiency. As Pine Castle did not provide sufficient services to its employees, it could not rely on the exception included within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. As such, each employee was owed at least a $7.25 per hour minimum wage. Businesses and organizations should understand their obligations under federal law if they are planning to rely on an exception to minimum wage requirements.

Contact Our Florida FLSA Lawyers for Immediate Help With Your Legal Case

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Floria employment attorneys have the skills, experience, and knowledge to represent employers and employees. We are focused on protecting the rights and furthering the interests of our clients. If you have questions about your rights or responsibilities under the FLSA, we are here to help. Call our Miami office or West Palm Beach office today for a confidential initial consultation.




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