Many people with disabilities can be paid well below the minimum wage legally. Chris Wilson is 33-years-old and has Down Syndrome. He only makes between $2 and $5 per hour.
His father, Rick Wilson, said:
“He works a full day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We’ve set this up because it’s what he wants. We don’t want him to get burned out with working every day.”
How Is This Legal?
A provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act permits employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage.
Clyde Terry, who chairs the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that makes recommendations to the federal government on policy issues affecting people with disabilities, says:
“It creates the perception that somehow people with disabilities can’t compete, cannot hold down a job, are not worthy of the same protections all other citizens are. Which is really contrary to what the Americans With Disabilities Act is all about: That we all should be able to be treated equally.”
Some of these workers are being paid pennies per hour.
Terry and other disability advocates have been pushing to get rid of this sub-minimum wage provision for years. During the 2016 presidential campaign, both parties included that in their platforms.
In 2014, then-President Barack Obama included workers with disabilities in his executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for people working on federal contracts.
Ari Ne’eman, who co-founded the Autism Self Advocacy Network and served on the National Council on Disability under the Obama administration, said:
“We’re seeing momentum on this issue like never before. We had an administration that was taking steps to limit and restrict sub minimum wage to one in which the new secretary of labor has indicated he has no issue with it. That’s a huge step backward.”
People with disabilities deserve both access to jobs and access to a living wage.
Featured image via Twitter.