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Sterling nonprofit can now reapply for certificate allowing pay under the minimum wage

STERLING, Illinois — A nonprofit organization that employs people with developmental disabilities has settled with the U.S. Department of Labor after being accused of exploiting workers.

In April of 2018, Self Help Enterprises, Inc. was found in violation of their Section 14(c) certificate, which allowed them to pay workers less than minimum wage, and instead pay them based on productivity.  Because of the violation, the organization lost their certificate, forcing them to pay their workers at least minimum wage and pay two years worth of back wages.

After being found in violation Self Help filed an appeal, according to a letter sent out to workers and their guardians.  For several months, the organization worked with an administrative law judge on the appeal.

On Thursday, May 30, 2019, Self Help’s Executive Director Carla Haubrich said the organization had settled with the U.S. Department of Labor, “resolving all pending matters.”  

This settlement allows the organization to reapply for their Section 14(c) certificate.

Haubrich said when their certificate was taken away it was “devastating and dramatically reduced the economic viability of our mission to serve the developmentally disabled population of Sterling-Rock Falls.” In addition, she said the allegations were “equally devastating and largely misconstrued the mission and compensation for our clients.”

When the violation was announced, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division said that on some weekends the nonprofit had unlawfully paid workers with gift cards instead of wages.  Self Help was required to perform wage surveys and time studies on work being done, but wasn’t doing them in a timely fashion. 

Administrative Staff and the Board of Directors of Self Help agreed that they needed to find a way to get their certificate back.  Haubrich said the organization needs this certificate in order to “financially allow all of the individuals served at Self Help to again participate in work.”

“I am pleased these efforts were successful and that we have reached an agreement to resolve issues and move forward,” she said.

Self Help said the back wages will be paid out by the Department of Labor; there was no timeline of when the payments would be issued.

Financial advisers have been made available to the workers who were eligible for back pay.

Related: Man shares fond memories of sister’s experience working at Self Help Enterprises

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