#AdvocacyMatters: Worthy of a Fair Wage

January 12, 2024 / #AdvocacyMatters

We cannot approach true equity in a society where one’s disability can be used to deny them a fair wage. Under Section 14(c) of the 80-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are able to apply for permits to pay people with disabilities far under the current $7.25 federal minimum wage. These subminimum wages are based on the incorrect assumption that people with disabilities are incapable of being fully integrated into the general labor workforce and paid competitive wages like any other employee, a belief at odds with the disability policy framework that has emerged over the past 40 years.

Last week, a ruling came down upholding a 2016 decision from the United States Department of Labor that provided backpay and damages for three individuals from Seneca County who were paid subminimum wage. In this precedent-setting decision, the Department of Labor explained that employers cannot rely on a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows individuals with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage without clear evidence that an individual’s disability impacts their productivity.

“This court action is a clear victory for workers with disabilities,” said DRO Executive Director Kerstin Sjoberg. “It affirms our belief that having a disability does not make one unworthy of fair pay.”

This victory is worthy of celebration, but there is so much work still ahead of us. As we outline in our current Goals and Objectives, we will continue to focus on elevating the lived experiences and perspectives of Ohioans with disabilities in our advocacy as we work to end these 14(c)exemptions. #AdvocacyMatters

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