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Recycling companies must pay disabled workers back wages

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A recycling center that employs adults with intellectual disabilities in Alabama should have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to its workers, federal labor officials said.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that employees were rightfully owed $540,000.

Montgomery Arc and two of its partners – Hanan Center and McInnis Recycling Center – will now pay $541,597 in back wages to 80 employees, federal officials said.

The deal is part of a settlement between the organizations and the federal agency, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
The organizations were supposed to provide services to the employees in exchange for paying them less than minimum wage, the newspaper reported. But the agency found that it failed to provide services required by federal guidelines. That means the workers were actually entitled to receive the federal minimum wage of of $7.25 per hour.

Montgomery Arc also automatically deducted 30 minutes per day from employees’ work time for meal breaks, regardless of whether employees actually took those breaks, officials said.

“This practice resulted in violations when employees worked through their breaks but were not paid for that time,” the Department of Labor said in a statement announcing the settlement agreement.

The Fair Labor Standards Act allows some employers to pay less than minimum wage. However, the law “requires that individuals with disabilities receive career counseling, information and referral services from the state vocational rehabilitation agency and information about local opportunities for self-advocacy, self-determination and peer-mentoring training from the employer each year,” the Department of Labor said.

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