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Senate Bill 46, effective July 6, 2015, bars employers from employing individuals with disabilities at an hourly rate lower than the federal minimum wage. The measure includes an exception for some training programs and for family-owned businesses.
Chris Rueggeberg, policy director of the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, told New Hampshire Public Radio that the idea of paying substandard wages to people with disabilities developed in the 1940s.
“They took a philosophy that people with disabilities really couldn’t work, that the best they could do would be menial jobs, and that society and employers were really helping them by giving them anything to do,” Rueggeberg said.
The website Disability Scoop traces the practice back farther, stating that federal law since the 1930s has allowed employers to request special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay those with disabilities less than the federal minimum.
“Every person with a disability can be competitively employed with the right supports and right job match,” Rueggeberg added. “Paying people with disabilities subminimum wages is not necessary or helpful for them to get a job. They can be hired on their merits and abilities.”
Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.
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