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Senator Megan Hunt Introduces Legislative Bill 834 to Eliminate the Disability Subminimum Wage
Lincoln, NE— 1.6.22 — Today, Senator Megan Hunt introduced LB 834, which would eliminate the outdated statute that allows employers to pay disabled employees well below minimum wage. Under an 80-year-old federal provision, states can legally pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage based on their perceived productivity. While this law was initially well-intended to encourage differently-abled individuals to find work, today it keeps workers earning poverty wages and segregated from their communities. Dialogue around disability rights has changed since Nebraska passed the law allowing this, and we now know that “sheltered workshops” do not help move people with disabilities toward greater personal and financial independence.
According to data released by the Department of Labor, some workers compensated under this exception to federal minimum wage laws are paid as little as 4 cents an hour. Data from Disability Rights Nebraska 2021 show that there are 12 organizations in Nebraska that pay 178 people a subminimum wage.
“We’ve moved far beyond the days of this antiquated law, living in a world where we all know people with disabilities that hold jobs alongside people without disabilities and perform them well. And yet, some people with disabilities in Nebraska are still being paid cents on the dollar,” Hunt said. “The work of disabled people is valuable and they should be compensated as such. The shameful current practice of setting disability wages based on a worker’s efficiency and ability is exploitive, discriminatory, and dehumanizing. People with disabilities can be thriving, independent contributors to their communities when we pay them accordingly.”