REPOST ARTICLE SOURCE: https://nfb.org/fair-wages
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) allows entities holding what are called “special wage certificates” to pay their disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage.
These entities are almost always segregated workplaces, sometimes called “sheltered workshops,” that employ workers with various disabilities, including sensory, physical, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Federal law requires that certain goods and services procured by the federal government be purchased from these sheltered workshops in order to provide workers with disabilities with employment, but these workers do not have the same protections that other American workers have. Most importantly, over 300,000 workers with disabilities do not receive the federal minimum wage.
People with disabilities have the right and ability to work in the same jobs earning the same wages as nondisabled workers. There are many examples of individuals with significant disabilities who, when provided the proper training and support, have acquired a competitive job skill to earn at least minimum wage. Very few, if any, disabled or nondisabled individuals acquire a competitive job skill through performing menial tasks in sheltered, segregated, subminimum-wage work environments. We must set higher expectations and provide real training and support for all people to become fully participating members of society.
Although in recent times some sheltered workshops have begun to pay disabled workers the minimum wage or higher, other shops still claim that they would be unable to continue their operations and would have to fire their workers with disabilities if forced to pay the minimum wage. This claim is demonstrably false. In addition to the revenue generated from the labor of the worker, these entities are primarily non-profit organizations that receive very lucrative federal contracts. Even those workshops that are paying workers competitive wages should not have trouble maintaining their operations while remaining quite profitable; indeed, many are already maintaining successful business operations while paying competitive wages.
The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 (H.R. 831) has been introduced by Congressman Gregg Harper. The bill, if passed, would repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and phase out the discriminatory practice of paying disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage. For more information on this critical legislation, please read the official press release on its introduction.
To learn more about the issue and the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013, please read our frequently asked questions document.
On Saturday, August 25, 2012, the NFB and its affiliates and chapters conducted over ninety informational protests of Goodwill thrift store locations across the country.