Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 753 into law in June, guaranteeing minimum wages for workers with disabilities across the state. Prior to this change, employers could pay a person with disabilities as little as $2 an hour due to a provision in the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Although this new law is a substantial step forward for Texas, federal law still allows people to be paid less for their work if they have a disability. However, this latest move toward wage equality might represent a broader change.
How can employers pay less than minimum wage?
Section 14(c) of the FLSA allows employers to obtain a certificate from the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. Employers submit information on the type of work performed and productivity information for employees with disabilities.
The subminimum wage program is used by thousands of organizations, which range from work centers to school-work exploration programs. One of the most notable examples of such an arrangement is Goodwill, which has historically argued that without the subminimum wage program, many people with disabilities would be unable to find work.
Texas takes a step forward
Even though the federal law allowing for subminimum wages still exists, the new law in Texas brings employers to a higher – and as many argue, fairer – wage standard. The law takes effect September 1st of this year, but employers in the state have until 2022 to bring their wages up to at least the federal minimum wage.
Other states, including New Hampshire, Alaska, and Maryland, have also eradicated the pay gap for workers with disabilities. Plus, provisions in the Raise the Wage Act introduced in Congress earlier this year also aim to stop employers from paying subminimum wages.
All workers have rights. And when employers fail to fulfill their responsibilities to their employees, an employment attorney can help.