There has been much discussion and debate recently about whether the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour should be raised. Some argue that this wage is so low it must be doubled to fairly compensate those who labor in the employ of others. It may come as a surprise that there are people who earn less than the federal minimum wage, and it is legal.
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Special Minimum Wage
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers may request a certificate from the Wage and Hour division of the federal government giving them the right to pay some disabled workers a lower than minimum wage.
After receiving certification, the employer may pay workers with disabilities less when their disability is deemed to negatively affect their work productivity. Fact Sheet No. 39 states that disabilites which may affect workers’ productive capacity include: “blindness, mental illness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, alcoholism, and drug addiction.”
National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind has been fighting the perception that blind people and those with other disabilities do not have the capacity to participate in the workforce. They see this law as unfair, discriminatory, and unnecessary.
In addition to the fact that many disabled people are just as capable of doing their jobs as those without a disability, there are other reasons that this law is unjust. For example, many employers who profit from the labor of workers with disabilities often receive lucrative federal contracts. They have no need to pay anyone less than the minimum wage.
The National Federation for the Blind is calling for the elimination of legal wage discrimination. They challenge society to cease viewing people with disabilities as unable to perform jobs competitively, and to recognize that proper training, opportunity, and supports enable the disabled population to perform productively and competitively in the workforce.
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