Disability Law Colorado, as part of the nation-wide federally-mandated and state-designated Protection and Advocacy System, has had an on-going concern about sheltered workshops in Colorado and the number of individuals with disabilities who are paid subminimum wage in our state. Unfortunately, Disability Law Colorado (“DLC”) is concerned that though there have been some movements in the right direction, too little progress at too slow a pace is being made toward creating equity in wages and work conditions for people with disabilities.
What is subminimum wage? It refers to a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act (Section 14(c)) that allows employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage if their disability impairs their earning or productive capacity. It can be as low as 10¢ per hour up to a few dollars per hour. This is substantially lower than both Colorado’s minimum wage ($10.20) and the federal minimum wage ($7.25).
Disability Law Colorado believes it is time for a change--a change that recognizes the value of people with disabilities in the employment and human rights settings. We also recognize that change is never easy and we are recommending a coalition of Colorado public, private and state-run service agencies come together and make a full commitment to change the law. We propose that the best place to begin this process is through a series of focused, outcome driven discussions with stakeholders to determine how to most expediently and effectively bring about this change in the law. Together we can develop creative, practical solutions that will lead to fully integrated, fully supported work opportunities for all individuals with disabilities.