Shruti Rajkumar, reporter at HuffPost, covering breaking news, politics, race and disability has reported to HuffPost, that some disabled people are paid below minimum wage. She clearly noted while reporting to HuffPost that the bill would end that.
She has noted that a group of lawmakers in Congress is vying to end subminimum wages for disabled people, a policy that affects about 122,000 individuals nationwide. The minimum wage for employees in the U.S. ranges from $7.25 to $15 per hour, and many activists are continuously fighting to increase that amount. But currently, some employers can pay disabled people far below state minimums, with many earning less than $3.50 an hour, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
On Feb. 27, a group of bipartisan senators and representatives reintroduced the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, which would end that 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,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who led the legislative effort, said in a 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.”
Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers can apply for a certificate from the Department of Labor that would permit them to pay disabled employees below the minimum wage. The GAO reported that 1,567 employers did just that 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,” explained Jewelyn Cosgrove, vice president at the Washington, D.C., area disability nonprofit Melwood.
Tawana Freeman, a 52-year-old disabled woman, began working at Melwood in 1996, back when the nonprofit had a 14(c) certificate and paid subminimum wages to disabled employees. As a single mother of three children at the time, she remembers feeling immense pressure to perform well for the time trials every six months to avoid pay cuts.
“I was like ‘No, I can’t fail. I gotta prove myself, I gotta make them know that I’m worthy,’” Freeman told HuffPost.
Freeman said her pay was cut several times, forcing her to rely on her family and friends to help her pay her bills. She still works at Melwood, but no longer has to endure time trials and subminimum wages since the nonprofit voluntarily surrendered its Section 14(c) certificate in 2014 after becoming aware of its detrimental effect 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 said. “We feel normal, like we’re regular work people [who] go into work and get paid for our eight hours, and it feels wonderful.”