Labor Laws and Differently Abled Employees
As a follow up to our article last issue on Franky DiStefano, we wanted to provide our readers with some additional information that may be of use to them as it relates to their state and employment issues.
Dear PSN Magazine:
I was surprised to read in this article, unless I misunderstood, that Florida doesn’t have vocational training for kids with special needs. At least, maybe not in your area.
As an ex-investigator for the US Dept of Labor I was actually in charge of the Fair Labor Standards Section 14c program in my District Office. This Federal Labor Law authorizes the employment of workers w/ disabilities at special minimum wages when the disabilities impair their productivity for the work performed. It also allows Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) and State Agencies to use “real work” as a tool in the vocational training of individuals with disabilities. The problem is that many times these employees are underpaid and they do not know it. Hence, my department conducted and continues to conduct random audits of programs that run these facilities such as the Panda Kitchen in your story. We also looked into employees working in “enclaves” which is what Franky DiStafano might be involved in. That is, when they start off through a State run program and then became good at his job and was allowed to be employed directly by Olive Garden. We still investigated these to ensure Olive Garden doesn’t underpay him. For example, many times the company might want to pay him 40% of the Federal MW (minimum wage) or State Wage because that is the rate he was performing at when he started….but, he may have been doing the job for so long that he is now actually faster than a fully-abled person. So, we ensured that they get the same wage as any other employee in that restaurant, if he is performing at the same rate, or we will adjust it upward to a higher percentage (never do we lower them).
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