Human Resources News & Insights

Bill would eliminate lower pay rates for disabled workers

If you currently pay disabled employees below minimum wage under the federal certificate program, take note: A bill has been introduced in the House that would phase out the practice.

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011 would end the current program under which employers can apply to the DOL for special certificates that exempt disabled workers from federal minimum wage requirements.

The bill’s sponsors, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MO), say the certificate program is outdated — the original law was passed in 1938, when there were virtually no opportunities for disabled workers.

Today, however, advancements in vocational rehab, technology and training provide disabled workers with far more opportunities, and disabled employees can often be just as productive as their non-disabled counterparts.

If the bill becomes law, the special certificates would no longer be issued, and existing certificates would expire for private firms one year after enactment. Certificates for public entities would expire after two years, and certificates for non-profits would expire after three.

The bill is H.R. 3086. To read the full text, go here.

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  1. I am the H.R. Manager for a non-profit, intergrated (hourly employees working side-by-side our 80+ employees with disabilities) business, referred to as a workshop. Our employees are not sheltered; they are working, earning some money to contribute back to the community and are given respect, pride in their accomplishments and a chance to socialize and gain skills! We do complex assembly hand-work for items that cannot be automated, both on-site or at other businesses. We receive referrals for these individuals if they have failed at competitive or supported employment. In this economy many competitive jobs are offered to the best of the best so it is not easy for anyone to find a job! Most of our employees are most significantly disabled (3 or more disabilities) and 60+ of them ride transportation that we provide because they have no other means to get to work. Being a small town, community transportation is most limited. If not at our business, they would be at home doing nothing or in a day support center paying to do crafts. Come on, world, wake up! It would be wonderful if everyone could work competitively, but that is not the case due to physical restrictions, cognitive impairments, excessive medical absences, mental illnesses, etc., and businesses not willing to help out. I know the government would love to get rid of all the SSI and SSDI checks going to these individuals with disabilites, but it won’t happen. If workshops have to pay minimum wage, they will go under and the former workers will sit at home, keeping their benefits. Subminimal wages: Timestudies are done on all jobs and an example would be the following: If a worker produces 50% of what a worker can do without a disability, they would receive 50% of the prevailing wage rate for that job. The prevailing wage rate equals or in most cases, is higher than minimum wage. It is not about the money to our workers as it is about gaining skills and being praised for a job well-done. They have goals but can work at their speed, which is very important for someone with mulitple disabilities. We discover their strengths and do what we can to help them reach their professional and personal goals. Parents, caregivers and group homes will tell you that their loved ones need to work here! Please don’t do this sector of individuals with an injustice!!!

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