Subminimum wage back in Congress

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Two congressmen introduced a bill October 4 to end subminimum wages for people with disabilities.

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Equal Opportunity

The proposal would phase out the practice over three years.

“Ensuring that Americans with disabilities receive equal pay for equal work is more than a matter of basic fairness, it’s a long-overdue acknowledgement of the value disabled Americans contribute to our workplaces every day,” said Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill along with Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. in an article in Disability Scoop.

The Fair Labor Standards Act, created in 1938, includes a provision allowing for employers to pay people with certain disabilities less than minimum wage. The provision was created to prevent the loss of employment opportunities that could potentially result from the increased wage standards.

The bill comes less than two months after the Senate dropped a bill that would have retained the provision, but provided new safeguards to ensure people with disabilities eventually upgrade to higher paying jobs. The proposal sparked controversy among disability advocacy groups, as some saw it as a step toward improving employment standards for people with disabilities while others saw it continuing a discriminatory practice.

The National Federation of the Blind, which protested against the Senate bill this past summer, has already announced its support for the bill.

“The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act is a long-overdue effort to correct an injustice written into a law meant to protect all American workers from abuse and exploitation,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said in a news release. “Courage and creativity are required to replace the misguided benevolence that has historically shaped policies toward people with disabilities with real opportunity for our equal employment and full participation in the workplace.”