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FLSA Turns 86 This Week; MHEP Urges Executive Action

JUNE 27, 2024

ALBANY, NY: This week marks the 86th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a Depression-era law designed to protect American workers. However, a provision within this law has allowed some workers with disabilities to be segregated from their peers and paid wages that do not affirm the dignity of their work.

According to the US Commission on Civil Rights, more than 100,000 workers with disabilities are subjected to subminimum wages, averaging $3.34 (1) an hour, with over 50% earning less than $2.50 per hour (2). This practice conflicts with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Olmstead Supreme Court decision.

Discriminatory practices like subminimum wage impact the mental health and dignity of individuals with disabilities. It is time to dismantle these structural barriers and prioritize the worth of every individual. Despite bills in the Assembly and Senate (A3103/S3434) to eliminate subminimum wages, it has not moved forward. Meanwhile, similar bills have passed in states like Alaska, California, Colorado and others. Recently, Governor Pritzker of Illinois signed an Executive Order banning subminimum wages for state vendors (3). Therefore, the Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. (MHEP) calls on Governor Hochul to issue an Executive Order canceling all state contracts with organizations (4) holding a 14(c) certificate within two years.

As we commemorate the FLSA’s 86th anniversary, we must reflect on its shortcomings and push for urgent reform. By promoting wage justice, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society where every individual is valued and fairly compensated for their contributions.

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Citations:

1. Workers with Disabilities Can Earn Just $3.34 an Hour. Agency Says Law Needs Change (September 17, 2020): https://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/912840482/u-s-agency-urges-end-to-below-minimum-wage-for-workers-with-disabilities

2. Subminimum Wage: Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities (September 2020): https://www.usccr.gov/files/2020/2020-09-17-Subminimum-Wages-Report.pdf

3. Gov. Pritzker Signs Executive Order Eliminating the Subminimum Wage in State Contracting for People with Disabilities (October 4, 2021): https://www.illinois.gov/news/press-release.23976.html

4. 14(c) Certificate Holders: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/workers-with-disabilities/section-14c/certificate-holders