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  • U.S. Department of LaborOffice of Inspector General

    Office of Audit

    THE WAGE AND HOUR DIVISIONS ADMINISTRATION OF SPECIAL MINIMUM

    WAGES FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES

    AUDIT REPORT No. 05-01-002-04-420DATE ISSUED: March 19, 2001

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    ACRONYMS/ABBREVIATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i

    GLOSSARY OF TERMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii

    BACKGROUND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

    AUDIT OBJECTIVES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    CRITERIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    I. What Were the Key Issues Associated With Administering the Special Minimum Wage Program? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

    A. Low Priority Was Given to the Special Minimum Wage Program by the Wage and Hour Division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

    B. The Management Information System Was Unreliable for ReportingProgram Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

    C. Wage and Hour Division Policy Provided for Assessments ofNegligible Amounts of Back Wages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

    II Does the Wage and Hour Divisions Application Certification Process Ensure Employer Compliance With Section 14(c) Requirements? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

    A. Increased Monitoring and Technical Assistance Are Needed to Ensure Employer ComplianceWith Section 14(c) Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

    B. Adequate Monitoring and Technical Assistance May Increase Employer Complianceand Reduce the Need to Assess and Collect Back Wages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

  • III. How Can the Special Minimum Wage Program Improve Employment Opportunities for Workers With Disabilities? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

    Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

    Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

    Agencys Response (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

    Appendix (Complete Agency Response) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

  • -i-

    ACRONYMS/ABBREVIATIONS

    ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act

    CFR - Code of Federal Regulations

    CPS - Certification Processing System

    CRP - Community Rehabilitation Program

    CY - Calendar Year

    DOL - United States Department of Labor

    ESA - Employment Standards Administration

    ETA - Employment and Training Administration

    FOH - Field Operations Handbook

    FY - Fiscal Year

    FLSA - Fair Labor Standards Act

    JTPA - Job Training Partnership Act

    MIS - Management Information System

    OIG - Office of Inspector General

    SMW - Special Minimum Wage

    SSI - Supplemental Security Income

    TWWIIA - Ticket to Work and the Work Incentives Improvement Act

    WHD - Wage and Hour Division

    WHISARD - Wage and Hour Investigative Support and Reporting Database

    WIA - Workforce Investment Act

  • -iii-

    GLOSSARY OF TERMS

    Commensurate Wages - Wages based on the workers individual productivity, no matter howlimited, in proportion to the wage and quantity of work performed in the same job in the geographicarea from which the labor force of the community is drawn.

    Compliance Review -The review of the Special Minimum Wage certificate applications and theaccompanying documentation to determine if the employer is complying with Section 14(c) regulations.

    Partnering - The association or relationship between various sources providing services that wouldstrengthen the mission or goal of the program. Partnering involves the coordination of other publicprograms.

    Prevailing Wage - A wage rate that is paid to an experienced worker not disabled for the workperformed.

    Productivity Studies/ Time Studies - The industrial work measurement methods, such as, stopwatch time studies, predetermined time system, standard data, and other methods used by the employerto establish standard production rates of workers not disabled for the work performed.

    Work Measurement - The process of determining the amount of time it takes a worker who does nothave a disability to perform an operation or an element of an operation using a prescribed method. Thisamount of time becomes the standard against which the productivity of the worker with a disability iscompared to determine the commensurate wage.

    Special Minimum Wage - Wage that is authorized under a certificate issued to an employer and isless than the statutory minimum wage.

  • -iv-

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, established fair labor standards for theemployment of workers in industries engaged in interstate commerce. Included in the Act areprovisions related to the establishment of minimum wage rates, including a special minimum wage forpeople with disabilities. Section 14(c) of the FLSA was amended in 1986 to modify provisions relatedto the employment of workers with disabilities at special minimum wages. Section 14(c) authorizesemployers, after receiving certificates from the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), to pay workers withdisabilities less than the Federal minimum wage. The WHD operates the Special Minimum Wage(SMW) program and issues employers certificates authorizing the payment of subminimum wages. Themajority of WHD Section 14(c) program resources are devoted to conducting compliance reviews ofemployers during the certification process.

    The Office of Inspector General (OIG) audited WHD operations and selected employers that wereissued certificates under Section 14(c) for onsite reviews. Our main objective was to determine howeffectively WHD managed the SMW program. Another objective was to determine whether WHDand employers operating under the program were partnering with the workforce investment systemadministered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and other Federal agencies to improveemployment opportunities for people with disabilities.

    Audit Results

    We identified several factors that affected WHDs ability to administer the certification programeffectively and efficiently. Specifically, we found WHD: 1) placed a low priority on Section 14(c)activities; 2) had an unreliable Management Information System (MIS); and 3) adopted policies thatresulted in the assessment of back wages as low as 1 cent.

    The WHD management of the SMW program offers little assurance that employers are complying withprogram requirements. Numerous problems were noted with employers who either did not understandor were not following Section 14(c) requirements when determining commensurate wages paid to theiremployees. Furthermore, employers generally assumed they were in compliance with programrequirements simply because they had been issued certificates by WHD.

    The technical assistance provided to employers by WHD was limited to providing information duringthe compliance review process. At most sites visited, employers stated that communication betweenthem and WHD was minimal, and they would like WHD to be more proactive in providing informationon program requirements. Conducting onsite monitoring and compliance reviews and providingemployers with technical assistance will help ensure employer compliance with critical Section 14(c)requirements.

  • -v-

    Conclusions

    During our audit period, WHD started taking steps to improve the management of the SMW program. The WHD improved Midwest Regional Office operations by adding a new manager to direct programoperations. Increased emphasis was placed on ensuring applications sent by employers are correctlycompleted and contain all the required information. Also, steps were taken to improve the managementinformation system used to track certificates and report on program statistics. Finally, the FieldOperations Handbook (FOH) was being updated, and WHD plans to provide increased staff training,education and outreach.

    We commend WHD for its efforts. However, improvements are still needed in the areas of programmanagement, strategic planning, monitoring, technical assistance, and partnering. Data basemanagement deficiencies still need to be addressed, the FOH update needs to be issued, and ESAsstrategic planning process must provide for increased technical assistance and more on-site reviews. Finally, by becoming more involved in the workforce investment initiatives funded by DOL and otherFederal agencies, WHD co

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