A coalition of Congress lawmakers is trying to eliminate subminimum wage for disabled persons. This policy affects approximately 122,000 people nationwide.

In the U.S., minimum wages for employees are ranges Many activists fight to raise that number, which can range from $7.25 to $15 an hour. Currently, however, many employers pay people with disabilities far less than the state’s minimum wage. Many earn below that. $3.50 an hourAccording to a report By the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

A group of bipartisan senators, representatives met on February 27th. reintroduced The Transformation Competitive Integrated Employment ActThis would put an end to the practice.

“Paying workers less than the minimum wage is unacceptable. Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage, and Americans with disabilities are no exception,” The legislative leader was Sen. Bob Casey (D.Pa.), which said in an statement. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill would lift up people with disabilities by raising their wages and creating competitive jobs in workplaces that employ both workers with and without disabilities.”

Unter Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards ActEmployers may apply to the Department of Labor for a certificate that will allow them pay employees with disabilities below the minimum wage. According to the GAO This was done by 1,567 employers in 2019.

Disabled employees’ subminimum wages are determined by time trials that their employers administer every six months to compare their work output and productivity to that of non-disabled employees.

“For employees, there’s an extreme amount of stress. They’re being tested every six months, and if they don’t perform at a certain level, their pay is cut,” Jewelyn Cosgrove, Melwood’s vice-president in the Washington, D.C. area, explained.

Tawana Freeman is a 52 year-old woman with a disability who started working for Melwood back in 1996. This was before the non-profit had a 14(c certificate and paid minimum wages to disabled workers. Being a single parent of her children, Freeman recalls being under immense pressure at times to excel in the time trials each six months.

“I was like ‘No, I can’t fail. I gotta prove myself, I gotta make them know that I’m worthy,’” Freeman said The Sunday Review.

Freeman claimed that her wages were cut multiple times and she had to depend on family members and friends for help. Melwood employs Freeman, though she is no longer subject to time trials or subminimum pay. The nonprofit had voluntarily surrendered Section 14(c), in 2014 due to the negative effects it was having on disabled employees.

“Oh, I feel wonderful. I don’t have to ask anyone for money. I know what I’m getting … so I’m OK now,” Freeman stated. “We feel normal, like we’re regular work people [who] go into work and get paid for our eight hours, and it feels wonderful.”

Historical Record of Subminimum Wages

Larysa Kutz is CEO of Melwood and Melwood President It is notable that society has long considered disabled people untrainable and unemployed. Disabled Because of their disability, people with developmental, cognitive, or intellectual disabilities are often seen as being inferior. Subminimum wages were offered to employers as incentive to employ them.

“[Section 14(c) is] an antiquated law that was put in place in the 1930s because frankly, nobody thought at that time that a person with a disability could do ‘real work,’” Kautz spoke to The Sunday Review.

“It was well-intentioned. It was done because we as a society thought that no one would ever hire someone with a significant disability — or any disability, really, because it doesn’t have to be significant — unless there was an incentive for that employer to do so,” Elle continued.

Today, advocates of subminimum wage believe that they are the best option for people with disabilities and that without them these workers will be without a source of income. Kautz stated.

However, the world has transformed dramatically since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. There are now more opportunities for employment and other options than before.

Over the last few decades, the U.S. has witnessed significant improvements in assistive technologies and other tools to assist people with disabilities at work. In 2014, there were even more improvements in assistive technology and other tools that can help disabled people at work. Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act You can be sure job-seekers — including disabled people — have access to employment, training and support services to help them succeed in the labor market.

“Being allowed to continue to rely on some of these old laws instead of moving into the future and into where we are currently doesn’t serve people with disabilities well. It just gives another reason to discriminate and set them aside and not try to find solutions and break down barriers,” Kautz said.

Fighting to Eliminate Below-Minimum Wages

On a federal scale, there have been efforts to abolish the subminimum wages for people with disabilities. It is not possible to abolish the federal subminimum wages for people with disabilities. July 2022The AbilityOne The federal program is one of largest employment sources for persons with disabilities. eliminated Use of 14(c), subminimum wage within the program.

The problem is that The Transformation to Competitive and Integrated Employment ActThis would be the largest effort to eliminate the subminimum wages.

Disabled people would be able to achieve financial independence, engage more in their communities and transition into competitive work and integrated environments if they were to eliminate discriminatory practices.

Bipartisan support is currently available for the legislation.Sens. Casey (R-Mont.), and Steve Daines. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (R-Wash.). Despite the bipartisan coalition for this bill, Cosgrove said she’s skeptical that the legislation will pass in the current political environment.

And if it doesn’t pass, it will be up to individual states to eliminate 14(c) certificates.

Some States have begun to abandon the 85-year old law. The Association of People Supporting Employment FirstThere are 13 U.S. states that have this distinction. passed legislation Eliminating subminimum wages in disablementPeople with disabilities, legislation in progress Virginia And other countries.

GAO’s findings also showed that, between 2010-2019, the number of employers allowed under Section 14 (c) to pay minimum wages fell by half. Cosgrove predicts that in five years, the subminimum wage will disappear as many states have eliminated 14(c) certificate certificates.

“I think this policy is going to go away, and I think at some point, the political calculus of it being a problem to get rid of it is going to go away as well,” Cosgrove stated.