President Obama announced in January’s State of the Union address that he would be signing an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. The move is designed to motivate Congress to pass a federal law to raise the minimum wage for all American workers. Unfortunately physically and intellectually disabled federal workers can expect to see no increase, or at best a minimum increase in their hourly wage.
According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act section 14c, employers can obtain authorization from the U.S. Department of Labor to employ physically and intellectually disabled workers at a rate of pay equal to their abilities, even if it is below the minimum wage. For example, an employee working in a workshop which is covered under section 14c, that can perform at a standard that is 50% below that of a non-disabled employee would receive 50% of the minimum wage. This provision was instituted in 1938 and hasn’t been amended since 1966. Many advocates for the disabled say it’s time to revise the standard and pay all employees equally.
As advocates pressure President Obama to include disabled workers in the minimum wage hike, employers fear the wage increase will result in job loss for many of its employees. Since most of the physically and intellectually challenged employees at these facilities receive sub-minimum wages, these facilities are able to employ workers with a wide variety of abilities. If the executive order includes a raise in their wages, administrators at these facilities argue that they would be forced to reevaluate their workforce.
Roughly 400,000 of those employed under Section 14c are employed by “sheltered” workshops. Many of these employees work in manual labor jobs that are paid by the piece, which supports the sub-minimum wage model. Requiring sheltered workshops to pay employees the standard minimum wage would affect the productivity and profitability of their business. These businesses would be forced to only employ those workers who could produce close to the rate of a non-disabled employee, severely limiting jobs for those with more severe handicaps. Clearly there is more work to be done by the Obama Administration and Congress as they work to resolve the issue of raising the minimum wage so that it is fair to all workers.
The Philadelphia Employment Law Firm of Sidney L. Gold & Associates Advocates for the Rights of Disabled Employees
The Philadelphia employment lawyers of Sidney L. Gold & Associates have a well-known reputation for advocating for the rights of physically and intellectually disabled employees. As one of Philadelphia’s premier labor law firms, Sidney L. Gold & Associates represents clients throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey in all areas of employment law.
Conveniently located in center city Philadelphia our law firm is easily accessible to those in and around the tri-state area. Call our law offices today at 215-569-1999, or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation to see how we can help you.