Why Disabled Workers Can Get Paid Less Than Minimum Wage
By Andres O’Hara November 25, 2019
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults, 1 in 4 people in this country, are living with a disability. There are many overt ways that public policy has not adequately addressed the needs of people with disabilities, but there are also policies that are less overt. Most Americans might not know that federal law allows certain employers to pay people with disabilities far less than the minimum wage, trapping them in poverty. Goodwill Industries, one of the largest employers of people with disabilities, has a track record of paying its employees with disabilities sub-minimum wage.
We spoke with Robyn Powell, an attorney and a Research Associate at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University.
The Takeaway reached out to Goodwill Industries, and Laura Walling, Goodwill Industries International’s senior director of government affairs, provided this statement:
Local Goodwill® organizations across the country have been transitioning away from the use of the Special Minimum Wage Certificate over the last decade to support people with disabilities working in competitive, integrated opportunities in their communities. Only 30 of the 152 Goodwill 501(c)(3) organizations in the United States currently maintain a Certificate, down from more than 80 six years ago. Goodwill believes that the responsible approach is to transition people with disabilities employed under the Special Minimum Wage Certificate into competitive, integrated employment while ensuring individual choices are honored and the supports needed to succeed in those jobs are readily available and accessible. Each Goodwill organization in the United States has an independent and autonomous board of directors, is locally operated, and makes its own decisions on the types of services it offers based on community needs, available resources and organizational capabilities. Goodwill believes that the Certificate should not be eliminated without a well-planned systems transformation approach, which includes ensuring that alternative supports, resources and services are in place in communities where Certificates are currently held. A phase out should result in more people obtaining competitive integrated employment and staying in the workforce.