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October 24, 2014

Wage Push for Disabled Worries Charities and Splits Activists

Federal efforts to dismantle regulations allowing employers to pay sub-minimum wages to disabled people are dividing disability advocates, with some arguing for greater pay equity and others raising concerns that higher labor costs will force layoffs at the charities that provide most such jobs, Bloomberg reports.

As of Jan. 1, federal contractors, including hundreds of nonprofits that employ disabled adults, will be required to pay all staffers at least $10.10 an hour. Under current law, employers can obtain exemptions from minimum-wage laws and set their own pay rates for disabled staff.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and the National Disability Rights Network, which has lobbied for the wage floor, say the exemption enables economic exploitation of people with disabilities. Some activists and nonprofit employers contend the mandate will curtail work opportunities and deny disabled people the tangible social and therapeutic benefits that come with even low-paid employment.