How much do you expect to be paid once you are hired for a job? According to the federal law, you have the right to at least minimum wage- that’s $7.25 an hour- unless you are disabled. If someone suffers from a mental or physical condition that impairs their ability to work quickly, then they can be paid sub-minimum wage. In some cases, a disabled individual can have a set pay that’s even less than one dollar an hour. How can we expect people with health complications to survive on such staggering low incomes?

A piece of legislation called, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), provides some safeguards to deter discrimination against the working disabled population. It enforces that any employer, with 15 or more employees, must make reasonable accommodations for their disabled workers; so that they can perform all aspects of their job.  Although the ADA has tried to overcome the wage gap between people who suffer from disabilities and those who do not, it still can not protect against the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

President Roosevelt signed the FLSA, which is a set a standard minimum wage rate, but it has “a special exemption that permits certain employers to pay wages to workers with disabilities that are significantly lower than the minimum wage. Sometimes as low as just 8 cents an hour (Taylor Leighton, 2016).” This law passed was originally created to encourage the hiring of veterans who had returned home injured after the Veteran War. Now our Nation is not declared in war, so why is this law still considered credible? Especially when it is being used to exploit disabled individuals for the manipulation of cheap labor.

In order to pay a sub-minimum wage, “employers must obtain a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division to set a wage below the federal minimum. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the certificate program has been implemented in the employment of over 420,000 disabled Americans (Taylor Leighton, 2016).” That’s 420,000 people stricken to a life of poverty, on top of being stricken by something else they all have in common: a disability.

Earlier I stated that the disabled population is being exploited for cheap labor, and that’s because greedy industries claim to be a “job-training program,” that will teach them valuable working skills. They reach out to schools, parents, and service providers promising that regardless of the low pay, their workers will one day be prepared for a real working position. Yet, once the worker masters a skill and are fit to graduate, they only change that person’s task. Often these tasks are meaningless, and are not based on the individuals personal interests.

This vicious cycle, fabricated by an outdated law and assembled by malicious companies, has perpetuated the stigma that anyone of a disability is ‘less than,’ or ‘unworthy’ of reaching their full potential. It is wrong!



  1. Can Employers Actually Pay Disabled American Below the Minimum Wage? Taylor Leighton. Published 2016. Electronic.
  2. People With Disabilities Deserve a Minimum Wage, Curtis L. Decker. Published 2015. Electronic. pay-disabled-americans-belo/




CC BY-SA 4.0 How Much? More like, How Little? by Averi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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