Lowndes Co. non-profit to pay more than $150k in back pay

Updated: Jul. 23, 2019 at 12:14 AM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is requiring a Lowndes County non-profit organization to pay almost $160,000 in back pay to more than 130 disabled employees.

The Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center (LARC) said it provide opportunities for people with disabilities to work in the community.

LARC’s leaders said the required repayment all boils down to a missing piece of documentation.

“‘Do you have this form? Can you show us this form?'" asked Harry Hamm, the executive director of LARC.

Hamm said they didn’t meet the requirements to pay sub-minimum wage rates for services provided by workers.

A missed requirement, LARC’s assistant director, Steve Jaramillo, said was an oversight.

“It was a 1,600 page document. We missed one sentence. Yes we take responsibility for missing that sentence," said Jaramillo.

WALB sat down with the group who also admits to mistakenly not paying employees for daily 15 minute breaks and incorrectly rounding down wages.

These mistakes they said are costing them about $157,000.

“You’ve got to back up and pay minimum wage for all the people who worked here," said Hamm.

The organization said it can’t risk this happening in the future, which is costing them about half of the disabled group they serve.

“They can’t produce enough to if this ever happened again, for us to pay them back. It would be too costly," said Hamm.

“Instead of being productive, putting things together, having the opportunity to earn that paycheck, they don’t have that opportunity anymore," said Jaramillo.

Hamm said another hit like this could result in them having to close their doors permanently.

A chance they are not willing to take.

“We do everything we can to look out for them, to advocate for them. We are their family. We feel total obligations to them. We love them people," said Hamm.

According to the DOL, it encourages people to reach out to the local department of Wage and Hour Division to avoid potential violations.

The report also said the group failed to count some out-of-the-office time spent working.

LARC denies that and said they were not made aware of that claim.

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