Grothman Defends the Practice of Paying Disabled Workers Less Than Minimum Wage

On Saturday, February 20, 2021, Glenn Grothman sent out a constituent “newsletter” email in which he defended his having joined with Reps. B. Steil (WI-01), D. Harshbarger (TN-01), & M. Cawthorn (NC-11), in writing a letter to Pres. Biden against removing § 14(c) of the FLSA.

If you’re unfamiliar, § 14(c) allows certain employers (known as CRPs) to pay disabled employees less than minimum wage. Grothman claims in the email that he’s visited all eight CRPs in Wisconsin's Sixth District, and the disabled “workers who work there tell me that they enjoy their work not because of the paycheck, but because of the dignity that comes from completing an honest day's work... their job is a way to be productive with their friends instead of a way to make ends meet.”

Grothman says in the email that he’s “been told separately and on more than one occasion by different CRPs in Wisconsin's Sixth District that if government regulations require CRPs to pay $15/hour, they would likely be forced to lay-off all employees and close their doors permanently.” He again reiterates the notion that disabled workers “don’t need the money” and work only as “a point of pride” and for a sense of “dignity that comes from feeling productive and contributing to society.” He also claims that “CRPs are most often non-profit and money they do make is reinvested back into the company to assist the employees.”

Goodwill Industries is a CRP, and has been accused of exploiting disabled persons in its employ. It says that it’s unfair to use “isolated incidences” of low pay and imply that they’re typical, and that the average wage/hr for Goodwill’s § 14(c) employees is $7.47. However, that makes little sense, since the current federal minimum wage is $7.25. If allowed to pay disabled workers less, why would Goodwill actually pay them more?


Goodwill isn’t a centrally owned organization; its local stores are independently owned and operated. “Goodwill Omaha CEO Frank McGree was fired in 2016 after a World-Herald investigation revealed that he received between $400,000 and $930,000 annually, while more than 100 workers at his stores made less than minimum wage.” Similarly, “a 2013 Watchdog report found that the married couple in charge of Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina, Dennis and Linda McLain, received close to $800,000 annually while employing workers with disabilities who were paid less than minimum wage.”




A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office in 2001 showed that more than half of § 14(c) disabled workers made less than $2.50/hr, and nearly one-quarter of them made less than $1/hr.


The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) has called for phasing out all § 14(c) programs by no later than 2022.


The U.S. Department of Labor did its own 2001 study, in which various subcommittees examined different §14(c) programs. Each subcommittee recommended that its program should be shut down, some immediately, some with lead-time to allow workers to find alternate employment.


In September 2020, the U.S. Commission on Human Rights reported on its own study, and recommended repeal of § 14(c) with a planned phase-out period, again to allow time for alternate employment to be obtained.


Amy tweeted about Grothman’s “newsletter” email on February 22, 2021. One of the comments to her thread noted: “How could they [the disabled workers who spoke with Grothman] cite something as a plus if they aren’t receiving it in the first place? I wouldn’t claim that I love my job because of the posh surroundings and fabulous benefits if I don’t have those (I don’t). His ‘logic’ is circular.” Another said this: “The best way to honor any worker is to pay them a fair wage.” Amy agrees.

Amy supports the repeal of §14(c), with lead-time to allow disabled workers to find new employment. Just because someone has a disability doesn’t make it right to exploit their labor. Disabled workers can enjoy their job and still get paid adequately.