According to federal workforce data, more than 8,000 people in Minnesota with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and other disabilities work in cloistered environments and are paid less than the minimum wage, solely because they have a disability. This is among the highest incidence of discriminatory remuneration in the US.
President Joe Biden recently expressed his intention to end subminimum wages, aiming to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for everyone, including workers with disabilities.
The separate and unequal payment regime is coming to an end after years of effort from disability advocates. Minnesota is, in fact, the last state to abolish the practice of underpaying people with disabilities.
Minnesota has one of the lowest rates of employment in the U.S. for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. “A 2020 state survey found that only 57% of adults with developmental disabilities report having a job with income.”
“It saddens me to say this, but there is still a strong institutional bias in Minnesota against hiring people with disabilities,” said State Senator John Hoffman.
Fortunately, Biden’s plan calls for a phase-out of subminimum wages by August 2025. Moreover, lawmakers approved $14.1 million in grants to help disability service providers transform their business models and boost work options in the community.