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Workers with disabilities paid less than minimum wage

Workers with disabilities are sometimes being paid as low as $0.22 per hour. This amount is far less than minimum wage, not just in California, but throughout the nation. This fact is due to a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This exception is implemented by the employer creating what is known as a sheltered workshop.

A co-founder of an employment agency for disabled persons states that advocates for the disability community hold disparate views regarding the practice. One point of view holds that sheltered workshops exploit those who are most vulnerable and that the shops should be shut down immediately. The opposing point of view regards the work as a valued opportunity free from some demands, such as scheduling, of a more structured job.

The co-founder took exception to a comment made during a statement indicating that people with disabilities don't need to earn money. She thought this notion was absurd and feels that people with disabilities need to earn money just like other workers, likely more in order to pay for their own care. Her reasoning is that government services are dwindling each and every year and the number of people with disabilities is growing. She argues that sheltered workshops should be allowed to shrink naturally and be required to respect the full minimum wage while, at the same time, schools should do a better job of educating students with disabilities.

California law requires that workers be paid at least the legal minimum wage. Laws also exist that apply to working more than 8 hours in one day or 40 hours in one week. An employment attorney may be able to help workers to understand and protect their rights if they are forced to work without adequate pay or are not compensated for overtime work.

Source: Forbes, "The Subminimum Wage Issue", Judy Owen, July 08, 2013

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