• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

DHR ruling challenges disabled hiring practices in Bloomington, Minn.

Get PDF file

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A “sheltered workplace” in Bloomington, Minnesota, where disabled employees are paid pennies on the dollar may face changes following a Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR) ruling. DHR Commissioner Kevin Lindsey found probable cause that Opportunity Partners discriminated against a disabled worker when it refused to consider him for one of its fully paid staff positions.

The case involves a former physical education teacher who became disabled when he suffered a brain injury. He took a job at Opportunity Partners packaging parts for portable refrigeration units. However, the man believed he was qualified for a staff position and applied for it.

Opportunity Partners turned him down, telling him that he was a client and that clients were never considered eligible for employee positions.

The man filed a complaint with the DHR, arguing that the practice of denying disabled clients access to full-time jobs was discriminatory.

Lindsey’s ruling is not final, but it means the former gym teacher can proceed with his complaint.

Sheltered workplace critics allege that employers have no incentive to move disabled workers into full-time positions because they lose thousands of dollars by doing so. The state subsidizes the wages paid at Opportunity Partners and similar organizations as an incentive to hire disabled people.

Proponents argue that the organizations provide jobs that disabled workers would not otherwise be able to get.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issues special certificates to entities such as Opportunity Partners that allow them to pay subminimum wages. Opportunity Partners employs about 600 workers under the program. Nationally, DOL certificate holders employ about 288,600 subminimum wage workers.

Although Opportunity Partners said it disagreed with the ruling, it has announced it will change its internal policies to comply with the DHR ruling.

Leave a Comment