Company to give $300,000 in back wages to disabled workers paid less than minimum wage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – An employment program agreed to give $300,000 in back wages to around 100 disabled workers for allegedly failing to pay overtime and the minimum wage, as part of a settlement announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The agreement between North Providence-based Training Thru Placement, Inc., and the Department of Labor, which was signed Nov. 10, follows previous federal investigations and agreements with the state and the city of Providence for allegedly violating the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by segregating them in so-called sheltered workshops, often for little or no pay.

Federal authorities said last year that the average wage for disabled workers at Training Thru Placement was $1.57 an hour, although one employee got 14 cents an hour. At the time, the company had authorization from the Department of Labor to pay disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for work that included light assembling, sorting and packaging.

The Department of Labor said Wednesday its investigation found that between June 2010 and January 2013, Training Thru Placement falsified documents, failed to pay employees for all the hours they worked and other violations. As a result, the department revoked the company’s authorization to pay less than the minimum wage during that time.

“TTP failed to meet its responsibilities under the law to some of the most vulnerable workers we see,” Mark Watson, the department’s northeast regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, said in a written statement.

Training Thru Placement has replaced its board, as well as management and staff responsible for the problems, the Department of Labor said. The company did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

A New York Company, FedCap Rehabilitation Services, has taken over Training Thru Placement. A spokesman for FedCap did not immediately comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Earlier this year, the state of Rhode Island and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a court-ordered consent decree that will overhaul employment services to the disabled. Among the steps the state agreed to take was providing job opportunities to people with disabilities that pay at least the minimum wage.