STERLING – Self Help Enterprises has received permission to again delay back pay owed to its workers.
The nonprofit, which has a sheltered workshop, learned in April that it would lose its certification that allows the organization to pay disabled workers less than the $7.50 federal minimum hourly wage. The action was taken after findings from a U.S. Department of Labor investigation concluded that nearly 250 workers were exploited.
Self Help was ordered to pay minimum wage to all of its workers going forward and to pay 2 years’ of back wages. In September, however, officials asked the Labor Department for an extension on the deadline for paying back wages that were due during the summer. That request was granted and a Nov. 11 deadline was set.
As the new deadline approached, Self Help requested a second extension of the back-pay deadline, which also was approved.
Self Help has appealed the government’s decision on its decertification and a review is pending. That status enabled the nonprofit to ask for the back-pay extensions.
“We are still in discussions with the Labor Department, which is why we asked for the extension,” Self Help Executive Director Carla Haubrich said. “We got word from them on Nov. 5 that it was OK’d and we sent a letter to clients the next day.”
A new deadline has not yet been set, Haubrich said.
The second extension wasn’t surprising – Self Help indicated in its first letter to consumers and their guardians that further delays were possible, perhaps until a ruling was made on the appeal.
“I encourage you to be cautious in making plans to spend your back wages, as the circumstances could easily change again,” the letter said.
The subminimum wage certificate is given in accordance with Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, with the intent of providing disabled workers with more job opportunities by compensating for lost productivity.
The Department of Labor does not comment or provide information on open investigations, including a time frame for the appeal process to wrap up.