TIFFIN — A judge has ordered Seneca Re-ad Industries, Inc., to pay more than $54,000 in damages and back pay after ruling that the sheltered workshop did not accurately assign subminimum wages to three of its employees with disabilities.
Judge Steven D. Bell, an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Labor, issued the ruling Tuesday. He ruled that the employer, which paid three employees a subminimum wage, was not justified in doing so. He also ruled that the subminimum wages were not accurately assessed.
The case involves three employees of Seneca Re-Ad Center. They asserted in their petition, filed in November with the Department of Labor, that their disabilities, which include visual impairment and Asperger’s syndrome, did not interfere with their work productivity. They also contested the method in which their productivity was assessed.
Employers in the United States are allowed to pay subminimum wages if they have a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor.
Special wages are allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act for those with disabilities, given that "the disability actually impairs the worker's earning or productive capacity for the work being performed.The fact that a worker may have a disability is not in and of itself sufficient to warrant the payment of a subminimum wage."
The judge ordered each employee to be paid at least the Ohio minimum wage, which is currently $8.10, going forward, and awarded back pay and liquidated damages to each. He also said he would award attorney fees and “reasonable litigation costs” to the petitioners if that option is available.
Judge Bell heard the case in January at the Seneca County Common Pleas Court in Tiffin.
The Re-Ad Center is operated by the Seneca County Board of Developmental Disabilities through a partnership with Roppe Industries, a private flooring company.
Judge Bell ordered the payments, which total $54,075.40, be made within 30 days of the decision.