Department of Labor complaints filed against Texas employers for violating federal fair labor law

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2016

CONTACT:
Edie Surtees, Communications Director
512.407.2739 (office), 720.220.3971 (mobile), esurtees@DRTx.org

AUSTINDisability Rights Texas (DRTx) filed Department of Labor (DOL) complaints earlier this week against Bluebonnet Homes in Jacksonville (south of Tyler), The Brookwood Community in Brookshire (near Houston), and The Devereux Foundation in Victoria (south of San Antonio), for unfair labor practices that discriminate against workers with disabilities.

DRTx is the protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas and has been monitoring the use of 14(c) certificates in the state which are issued by the DOL under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938.

The three organizations named in the complaints are also known as sheltered workshops and employ people with disabilities in segregated settings and pay them subminimum wage for their work. The wages are surprisingly legal under a Depression-era law that allows the practice if the entities possess up-to-date DOL FLSA 14(c) certificates and abide by all procedures required under the certificate, such as conducting worker time studies.

In recent years, pressure has mounted in Texas to change this practice, and other states have already done so.

Prior to September 1, 2015, Bluebonnet Homes operated and paid subminimum wages without a DOL 14(c) certificate for approximately 8 years.

The Brookwood Community failed to perform time studies used to set wages for some of the worked performed at its workshop.

In addition, the Devereux Foundation was found using an inaccurate 14(c) certificate, docking pay in violation of the FLSA, and in violation of several provisions under its 14(c) application.

DRTx recently released an investigative report called “Living on a Dime and Left Behind” that sheds light on the discriminatory practice of paying subminimum wage and segregating people with disabilities in sheltered workshops in Texas. The report provides recommendations for a multi-year plan to phase out the practice.

“The 14(c) certificates allow companies to severely underpay people with disabilities. This work is usually performed in a segregated setting, and it robs people with disabilities of the opportunity to maximize their skills and talents,” said Lia S. Davis, DRTx Attorney and co-author of the report. “This practice runs counter to the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990 which was meant to guarantee equality of opportunity for all people with disabilities.”

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Our mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit www.DRTx.org for more information on our scope of services.

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