Disabled Americans often encounter discrimination in employment and hiring, due to the mistaken belief that they will not be able to perform as well as able-bodied workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stringently upholds the principle of parity in employment, and as such, it will bring suit occasionally against employers and employment agencies that appear to discriminate. On Oct. 4, 2016, the EEOC brought a formal suit against Work Services, Inc., a South Carolina company. If the EEOC prevails, it may change the protections (or lack thereof) for disabled workers in this country.
The Newberry, SC Disability Discrimination Case
Approximately two and a half years ago, a landmark disability rights case in Atalissa, Iowa, exposed years of neglect and mistreatment against several intellectually disabled men who had worked for Henry’s Turkey Service. The workers had been paid pennies on the dollar for many years, as well as having their freedom of movement restricted. The EEOC brought suit after hearing the men’s stories, and an enormous verdict of $240 million was returned against Henry’s Turkey Service.
During discovery and testimony in the Atalissa case, investigators were advised that many intellectually disabled men had also been sent to work for Work Services, Inc., in South Carolina. Six men were tracked to Newberry, SC. They were found to be working at a turkey plant in very similar circumstances to the men of Atalissa, including sub-minimum wages, verbal abuse and neglect, restricted freedom of movement and other unacceptable practices for an employer.
Potential For Disability Discrimination Reform
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects workers from discrimination or unethical treatment based on disability. Given the documented pattern of mistreatment by Work Services personnel, the EEOC decided to bring suit alleging wage violations, substandard treatment and the creation of a hostile work environment including ableist slurs and other name-calling. An attempt at conciliation was made, but no progress resulted, and as such, the EEOC decided to take up the case—a rare eventuality, as the EEOC receives many more requests for litigation than it can take on.
The Newberry, SC disability discrimination case is potentially significant, as was the Atalissa case, because it is causing action by the relevant federal agencies, as well as provoking discussion on Capitol Hill about subminimum wage practices. As of this writing, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to apply for a Special Wage Certificate which permits payment of subminimum wages to disabled workers. Multiple organizations, such as the National Federation for the Blind, as well as many individual lawmakers like former First Lady Hillary Clinton, have called for an end to this practice, but it still persists. The cases in Atalissa and Newberry may help change that.
Get Help From A Disability Discrimination Attorney
If you fear that you or a loved one is being discriminated against on the basis of disability, it is important to consult a knowledgeable attorney, who can advise you of your rights. Every worker has a right to make an appropriate wage and to work in an environment that is appropriate for humans to be in. The dedicated Charleston disability discrimination attorneys at Hitchcock & Potts can help with your case. Contact attorney A. Christopher Potts today to set up an initial appointment.