How Much Does Goodwill Pay Their Disabled Employees – Has Illinois Goodwill fired its disabled workers? A local news report and a viral Facebook post left out key information about a plan to “withdraw wages” from disabled workers at the Land of Lincoln Goodwill.
In the summer of 2019, the Land of Lincoln Goodwill ceased paid employment for workers with disabilities.
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In July 2019, Land of Lincoln Goodwill temporarily terminated paid employment for nearly a dozen workers with disabilities.
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The decision was overturned within 16 days, back pay was granted and the chief executive behind the scheme resigned.
In the summer of 2019, concerned readers submitted multiple inquiries about the accuracy of a report that claimed an Illinois charity had announced its intention to cancel paid work for its disabled employees.
On July 16, WCIA reported that the Land of Lincoln Goodwill, based in Springfield, Illinois, will “cut wages” for dozens of disabled thrift store workers in response to financial pressures allegedly caused by a recently announced increase in the state’s minimum wage. :
“Reputable nonprofit thrift store abhors wage hikes and announces plans to lay off disabled employees to cover additional costs. However, the 501(c)(3) organization is tax-free, collects state funds, has been awarded state contracts and special permission from federal government to pay disabled workers below the minimum wage level.
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“Sharon Durbin, president and CEO of the Land of Lincoln Goodwill, has told dozens of disabled thrift store workers they will no longer receive wages due to a new increase in the state’s minimum wage, and warns that future job cuts could still be 11 remaining disabled employee is still on the payroll.”
“…Durbin…notified participants in the vocational rehabilitation program that they will not receive wages in the future due to the new minimum wage increase, according to RochesterFirst.com. She also warned the last 11 disabled employees on the payroll that their jobs were at risk as well. Durbin explained to the publication that the salary increase would cost his region more than $2 million annually.
“By making changes now, we can start to recover costs, not only through Voc. Rehab, but through other things we do in the organization,” said Durbin, who runs the nonprofit in Central Illinois. subsidiary that oversees 15 retail outlets and a total of over 450 employees.”
Ameeka Zahra Black’s viral Facebook post was preceded by a tweet from Mark Maxwell, author of the WCIA article above, who wrote:
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“Goodwill’s president and CEO defends her decision to withhold wages from disabled workers: ‘It wasn’t really a job,’ she said. ‘We gave them from our budget to pay through deferment so they would have a paycheck to go home with. ‘”
Both Black’s Facebook post and the original WCIA story were largely accurate descriptions of the Land of Lincoln Goodwill CEO’s decision to end paid employment for some workers with disabilities. However, as of August 13, those original texts had not been updated to mention the fact that the local Goodwill organization later reversed that decision and awarded back wages to the workers, and that Durbin had since resigned.
This has been updated to include much important additional information, and the WCIA itself later published separate articles detailing the overturning of the decision, the arrears provision and the resignation, although the original report has not been updated.
Moreover, the title of the WCIA (“Goodwill Deducts Wages from Workers with Disabilities”) does not specify that it applies to only one Goodwill organization in Illinois. This lack of specificity led some readers, including some contacted, to wonder if the ruling applies to all Goodwill organizations and stores across the country. it is not. Goodwill Industries International is structured as a network of autonomous local and regional organizations, each of which independently makes policy and employment decisions.
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“On July 1, 2019, Goodwill made a decision to realign our vocational rehabilitation program. This decision resulted in the transition of 13 service participants earning minimum wage or more from their paid positions to an unpaid vocational skills development program.
“After review and consideration, Goodwill reversed that initial decision on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. All affected service participants returned to their salaried status on Monday, July 22 and all received back pay as of July 1. During the week we made personal phone calls to the parents and guardians of our service participants, apologizing for the program changes. We also offered to arrange individual meetings with them to answer questions and address any concerns.”
So it’s true that the plan actually involves laying off some workers with special needs (terminating their paid employment and moving them to unpaid volunteer positions can be interpreted as their “laying off”). However, the decision affected 13 people, not the “dozens” claimed by the WCIA. The decision was also overturned within 16 days and back pay was granted.
A spokesperson for the organization also said that a separate contingent of 11 workers mentioned in the WCIA report will never lose their paid jobs.
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On July 17, Durbin announced in a statement posted on Facebook that Land of Lincoln Goodwill was reversing its decision to lay off the disabled employees in question. She apologized for the initial decision, writing:
“Our decision to refocus on the vocational rehabilitation program and the comments about its impact on the 12 program participants gave us pause. While we must be good stewards of our nonprofit organization, we must remain sharply focused on our mission.
“Our recent decision regarding the Voc Rehab Program and the harm it may have caused was inconsistent with our mission and we apologize for this error of judgment. We are reversing our decision to restructure our Voc Rehab Program and participants will be affected. Their pay along with the Interim Return Skills Training Program… As president and chief executive officer of this organization, I would like to apologize to our constituents, our clients and our loyal donors.”
Amid constant criticism and backlash, the organization’s board of directors announced two days later that it had accepted Durbin’s resignation:
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“On Thursday, July 18th, Sharon Durbin, President and CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill, submitted her resignation to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has accepted her resignation, effective immediately… The Board remains strong, strong, for our Goodwill organization A compassionate leader who can energize our employees, expand our mission, and who can provide the mission-driven leadership necessary to positively impact thousands of lives in central Illinois each year.
“The Goodwills Board of Directors thanked Sharon for her 13 years of service to the organization, noting her many accomplishments and the overall growth of the nonprofit and the number of people she has served during her tenure.”
Petrella, Dan. “Governor J.B. Pritzker Signs Bill to Raise Illinois Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour by 2025”.
Updated [7. February 2020]: Added references and hyperlinks to three WCIA articles from July 2019 detailing the reversal of Land of Lincoln Goodwill’s decision to end paid employment for some workers with disabilities, the provision of back pay to those workers, and the resignation of the CEO. Sharon Durbin. ‘Hands on the worst place I’ve ever worked’: TikToker’s video on ‘Why You Shouldn’t Donate to Goodwill’ When You Realize Goodwill Pays Its Disabled Employees Under $3 An Hour’ gives such a shout out.
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The TikTok, posted by user Lana (@Bodemia), shows her leaving the store, captioning the video saying she hates shopping there and donating her clothes to the chain. The video sparked intense discussion and debate, with several alleged former Goodwill employees sharing their experiences working for the company.
@bodemia Why you shouldn’t donate to Goodwill❗️ #thriftstore #goodwill #boycottgoodwill #resellercommunity #thriftwithlana #salvationarmy #thrifttok #fyp ♬ Welcome to Duloc – Asha Levy & Jill Bogard
“When you realize that Goodwill pays its disabled employees under $3 an hour and donates only 12.5% of their profits to charity,” Lana wrote in the text that overlaid the video.
A provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 gives employers the right to pay disabled employees less than the minimum wage, according to Forbes.
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An article in the Colorado Springs Business Journal notes that while Goodwill says the vast majority of its workers with disabilities are paid more than minimum wage, some make as little as $1.44 an hour.
This practice has long been controversial. When this provision was debated in Congress in the 1960s, Goodwill Industries of Wisconsin, Inc. She wrote a letter to the government saying a pay rise for disabled people would be “unrealistic” and would “blow up the economy”. Vox. The same letter also claimed that raising wages for people with disabilities would “put an additional burden on the national economy”.
Although wages for workers with disabilities have increased over time, they can still often fall below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The above reference
The story concerns a blind Goodwill employee who was threatened with a pay cut of $2.75 an hour. The same story also records
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