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- The state-wide minimum wage in Illinois is set to be increased to $15 an hour by 2025.
- In response to this, Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries plans to cut paychecks for employees with disabilities who are employed through the stores Vocational Rehabilitation Program, WCIA reported.
- Land of Lincoln Goodwill has already begun that layoff process, according to WCIA.
- Sharon Durbin, President and Chief Executive Officer at Land of Lincoln Goodwill, said that the program “really was not a job” and “that disabled workers are not always as efficient or as productive as a traditional employee.”
- In a statement provided to INSIDER, Durbin said they are reversing the decision following public outcry.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
A Goodwill in Illinois has reversed its plan to cut the paychecks for employees with disabilities, the store’s president said in a statement provided to INSIDER.
The Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries originally decided to cut paychecks for employees with disabilities who are employed through the stores Vocational Rehabilitation Program amid state-wide minimum wage increase in Illinois, according to WCIA. By 2025, the minimum wage in Illinois will be increased to $15 an hour.
Sharon Durbin, President and Chief Executive Officer at Land of Lincoln Goodwill, announced the decision on in a letter dated June 14 that was obtained by WCIA.
“As of January 1, 2020, a new minimum wage law takes effect which will increase our payroll cost significantly,” Durbin’s letter reportedly states. “Over the next five years, the added expense will exceed $2 million if we do not make changes.”
In her letter, Durbin stated that the program “is funded through the Illinois Department of Human Services,” but that it “does not cover all of the significant costs of the program.”
Under the new program, Durbin said “many of our clients will no longer be working to receive a paycheck, but will be involved in some type of learning based initiative,” WCIA reported.
Goodwill is a 501(c)(3) organization that does not pay taxes and receives state funding. Those employed through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program are already paid below the minimum wage, some making $8.25 an hour, WCIA reported.
According to Rochester First, Durbin, who oversees over 400 employees at 15 locations, has already started informing employees that they will no longer receive a paycheck – even though the state-mandated wage increase won’t go into effect for five years. At this time, 11 remain employed through the program are still receiving paychecks.
Durbin said that the program “really was not a job. It was a work component and through it, we gave them through grace out of our budget to pay them so they had a paycheck to go home with,” according to WCIA.
According to WCIA, Durbin also said that employees with disabilities cost extra money to train and “correct … mistakes” adding that “disabled workers are not always as efficient or as productive as a traditional employee.”
One employee whose position through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program was terminated was 28-year-old Nick Braun, who had worked at Goodwill for six years. He called the situation “heartbreaking.”
“I am very proud of my work,” said Braun, who lives with autism. “I would help when I was on the sales floor. I would help customers find what they were looking for. I would help them find where the activewear was, and this and that.”
Braun is worried that other employees won’t be as accommodating as Goodwill was for him and others, WCIA reported. For example, the program provided busing for him and others to work, as Braun doesn’t drive. His mother, Loni, told WCIA that, to her, the cuts seemed antithetical to Goodwill’s core values.
“They say it is to help our mission,” Braun’s mother said. “But what is the mission now? That is what we are trying to find out. They have gotten rid of most of the people with disabilities. What are they doing with all those donations?”
As Durbin’s original memo circulates, she says that she is being vilified, but she said she has a “soft spot” for people with disabilities because her brother has disabilities.
“We are being viewed as this awful organization that is removing jobs from people with disabilities and that’s not true,” Durbin told WCIA.
Durbin maintains that the ramifications of the minimum wage increase will be felt around the state of Illinois.
“It is going to impact us all,” she told WCIA. “Gas prices are going to rise, grocery prices are going to rise. Jobs are going to be lost. Look at your Wal-Mart, your Meijers, your Schnucks. They are doing away with real people checking you out and they are doing more to go in the line of automation. Why is that? Because they don’t want – or can’t afford in their business model – to start paying everyone who walks in the door $15 an hour. They can’t. So what are they going to do? They start eliminating jobs because that is the first line of defense.”
The policy has been reversed
In a statement provided to INSIDER, a Goodwill spokesperson said this policy only pertains to the Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries.
“Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries is one of 158 community-based 501 (c)(3) Goodwill organizations that provide employment placement, job training, and support services to people in their local communities within North America,” the spokesperson said. “Each local Goodwill makes its own operating decisions for its career centers, stores, and donation centers.”
Following public outcry, the policy was reversed and “participants affected will return to their part-time skills training program with pay,” Durbin said in a statement.
“The outpouring of comments regarding our decision to refocus the Vocational Rehab program and its impact on 12 program participants has caused us to take pause,” she said. “While we must be good stewards of our nonprofit, we must remain sharply focused on our mission. Our recent decision regarding the Vocational Rehab Program and the resulting harm it might have caused falls short of living up to our mission and we apologize for this error in judgment.”
In her statement, Durbin also apologized to Goodwills clients, constituents, and donors.
The statement concludes: “I am committed to exploring how the state’s new minimum wage law can help raise up those we serve as well as the 400 employees in our organization. Regardless of the business and financial challenges ahead of us, Land of Lincoln Goodwill will always, first and foremost, remain true to our ideals and our mission of helping others to help themselves through the power of work.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that the policy has been reversed.
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