Kansas Plans to Phase Out Subminimum Wage for Disabled People

A 1938 law has made it legal to pay disabled people just a few dollars an hour—or less.

A white woman with a disability in a red shirt and hair net picking up part of a bottle spray in a cardboard box

A worker in a sheltered workshop, which often pays people less than subminimum wageTammy Ljungblad/Zuma

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

On Thursday, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed legislation into law that would start to phase out subminimum wage for disabled people in the state. For decades, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 has made it legal to pay disabled people less than minimum wage if they have a certificate. Only fourteen other states have passed laws to phase out this practice.

“I’m signing this bipartisan legislation to create more opportunities for people with disabilities, grow our workforce, and ensure every Kansan can work with dignity and respect,” Gov. Kelly said. 

In states where subminimum wage is still legal, companies apply for 14(c) certificates which allow them to pay disabled people below both the federal and their state’s minimum wage. A US Government Accountability Office report found that most 14(c) workers earn less than $3.50 an hour. 

The US Department of Labor is currently reviewing the 14(c) certificate program, but it is not clear if they will end the subminimum wage. A list of companies with 14c certificates can be found here. 

In a recent Teen Vogue article, disabled journalist John Loeppky asked people to question what purpose 14(c) certificates serve—especially because the certificates are often given to workplaces that separate disabled people from other workers:

Does providing disabled people employment, even if it’s for a significantly reduced standard of wage, improve their quality of life? That’s an argument we can have, in theory, but when you are, like some companies on this list, paying hundreds of people below the minimum wage to supposedly empower them, it’s hard not to see that as less of an employment program and more of a warehousing of disabled people. That kind of supposed inclusion, which can, for many, be more like a sheltered workshop, is the very thing the independent-living movement has consistently been rallying against

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate