The topic of minimum wage has never been hotter. Congress is debating and considering what should be done about raising the minimum wage for workers across the country and there is a piece of legislation (ironically contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act) that needs to go away while they are addressing the minimum wage.
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes employers, after receiving a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, to pay special minimum wages – wages less than the Federal minimum wage – to workers who have disabilities, for the work being performed.
There is nothing fair or standard about section 14(c) and there is nothing special about a subminimum wage. Just ask someone on the receiving end.
Again, it is time for this piece of legislation to be eliminated. Granted, there was solid motivation and a right time for this to be on the books years ago. However, now, in 2014, it is time for contemporary thought around how we pay disabled individuals who work for a living. It is time that we provide all workers with consistent minimum wage protection.
Today, there are better ways to encourage employers to hire workers with disabilities than allowing companies to reduce the amount they pay disabled employees. Those employees are disadvantaged enough without forcing them to accept reduced compensation which further exacerbates any financial issues they may have. Tax incentives and preferential consideration when lucrative government contracts are awarded based on a guarantee of X percentage of disabled workers within the contract awardee’s workforce are two that come to mind. These incentives are more significant to the employer and not a burden on the backs of disabled workers.
Secretary Perez should lead the Department of Labor in an effort to repeal section 14(c) of the FLSA and actually make the Fair Labor Standard Act Fair again.