Update to the Subminimum Wage Issue

Here is an interesting development concerning the sub-minimum wage issue (see my previous post). Six states enacted measures last year to raise the minimum wage. Two of the six – Ohio and Missouri – included exemptions for workers with disabilities from the minimum wage provisions. The other four – Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Montana – did not include in their laws any language that would exempt such employees from their new state minimum wage.

Now Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has issued an opinion stating that workers with developmental disabilities are not exempt from that state’s new minimum wage that voters approved last November in Proposition 202. The new minimum wage of $6.75 an hour took effect Jan. 1.

Goddard concluded that the “special” minimum wage authorized by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act for workers with disabilities was not incorporated into the language of Proposition 202. Employers in the state previously were allowed to pay a lower minimum wage to individuals with disabilities commensurate with their productivity.

This issue will probably be a battle now. I am on the side of the law as it now stands. Minimum wage should be for everyone – and for those individuals with disabilities who need support for their productivity, let us use what we now know through supported employment to customize their job and their support. We should not solve hiring and productivity problems on the backs of those who can least afford it.

A copy of the opinion can be accessed at http://www.azag.gov/opinions/2007/I07-002.pdf

February 12, 2007
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