Disability Advocates in the USA Urge Elimination of Subminimum Wage Employment

Disabled worker


A growing movement led by disability advocates in the Unites States are calling for the abolishment of subminimum wage employment, arguing that it perpetuates inequity and violates the principles of equality and fair pay.

Currently, under a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act known as Section 14(c), employers can obtain special permits to pay disabled workers wages that are below the federal minimum wage. These individuals are often relegated to segregated workplaces, earning significantly less than their non-disabled counterparts.

However, disability advocates firmly believe that everyone deserves equal opportunities and fair pay for their work. They argue that the subminimum wage system serves as an outdated relic from a time when people with disabilities were not considered capable of meaningful employment. They believe it is high time for this discriminatory practice to be brought to an end.


“The practice of paying disabled Americans subminimum wages is unfair, unjust and only further discriminates against our community that faces so many challenges already in our daily lives,” said Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “People with disabilities deserve to be paid a fair wage regardless of their work environment. This practice has endured for 90 years. It’s time for it to end.”


Critics argue that subminimum wage employment perpetuates a cycle of dependency and reinforces the stigma that people with disabilities are inherently less capable. It also limits their financial independence and hampers their ability to reach their full potential. Advocates emphasize that it is crucial to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sustainability by providing them with fair wages and equal access to employment opportunities.


disabled seamstress worker


In recent years, multiple states and cities have taken steps to gradually eliminate the subminimum wage. However, advocates argue that a nationwide policy change is needed to ensure consistent and comprehensive protection for disabled workers across the country.

To achieve this, disability rights organizations have been engaging in targeted advocacy efforts at the federal level. They are urging legislators to reform Section 14(c), and replace it with inclusive alternatives that promote competitive integrated employment, offering individuals with disabilities the chance to work alongside their non-disabled peers at fair wages.


“Eliminating 14(c) simply means that everyone has access to the federal minimum wage and ends the discriminatory practice of singling out people with disabilities as not capable/competent to fully participate in the labor market,” the letter states.


Several states have already implemented successful programs, demonstrating that it is possible to transition away from subminimum wage employment without causing undue hardship to employers. By adopting similar approaches on a national scale, the United States can create a more inclusive society that values the contributions and potential of all its citizens, regardless of disability.

Disability advocates are united in their call to end the subminimum wage system. Advocates implore that states see that this discriminatory practice limits opportunities and perpetuates inequality for people with disabilities. By advocating for policy reform at the federal level and promoting competitive integrated employment, it is possible to foster an inclusive society that values and supports the rights of all individuals, ensuring that fair wages are provided to everyone, regardless of disability.