Work centers for the disabled provide a useful service for businesses while allowing individuals with special needs to gain work skills and autonomy. But new federal regulations would make life difficult for these charitable operations, potentially causing some to close their doors.
These centers have historically been exempt from minimum wage laws, but proposed rules from the federal Labor Department would end the exemption. Regulators are also considering mandating "integrated work settings," which means they would have to employ more higher-priced, nondisabled workers to work with those who are disabled.
For many centers, that means they would have to fire disabled workers to hire more regular staff.
"That just doesn't make sense to me," said Charles Markey, the president of the Arnold Center in Midland.