Sub-minimum wage is legal on behalf of employing disabled workers because, “For thousands of people with the most significant disabilities, it means the difference between reaching their full employment potential and having no job at all,” wrote Jim Gibbons, the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries, in a 2013 Huffington Post op-ed.
There is a piece of legislation called, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which 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. Adjusting a working place takes time, and money but business owners still oblige to this rule and hire disabled people because of the Fair Labors Standards Act. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), passed by President Roosevelt, is a set sub-minimum wage rate that protects the rights of employers to pay people of a disability less because they are usually less productive. The FLSA is an incentive for industries to continue to hire people of severe disabilities, regardless of their health complications that may deter business productivity.
For example, Kandu Industries, a packaging and assembly factory in Janesville, Wisconsin, has about 150 workers paid substantially below the federal minimum wage of $7.25. According to The Department of Justice, about 20 percent of people with disabilities participate in the workforce, and of that group, about 3 percent, or approximately 195,000 workers, are being paid subminimum wages. 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 (Taylor Leighton, 2016).” This allows a business party to pay fairly in terms of the work that is being done for them, while a disabled employee can continue to participate in society and receive an income of their own.
For example, Chris Wilson, 33 years old and diagnosed with Down syndrome, has worked for Kandu Industries, where he is paid either $2 or $3 an hour while packaging playground equipment or food. Chris Wilson says, “I like my life, I like to work. Kandu pays us every two weeks. I like it. The more money I get, the more stuff to buy.” His parents explain that Chris is treated not like the “handicap employee” but an adult who is attributing to the economy in a meaningful way. The purpose of a sub-minimum wage is to encourage businesses like, Kandu Industries, to allow people like Chris a chance at obtaining a life worth living. If the sub-minimum wage rate were to be vetoed then less businesses would hire our disabled population.
- Can Employers Actually Pay Disabled American Below the Minimum Wage? Taylor Leighton. Published 2016. Electronic. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/aug/12/tom-harkin/can-employers-actually-
- People With Disabilities Deserve a Minimum Wage, Curtis L. Decker. Published 2015. Electronic. pay-disabled-americans-belo/https://www.huffingtonpost.com/curtis-l-decker-jd/people-with-disabilities-_3_b_8303198.html
- Ashely Dejean. August 8, 2017 https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/08/many-people-with-disabilities-are-being-paid-way-below-the-minimum-wage-and-its-perfectly-legal/
- Kandu Industries. https://www.kanduindustries.com