Employers would no longer be able to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage under a bill introduced in Congress this week.
Since the 1930s, employers have been able to obtain special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay those with disabilities what’s known as subminimum wage, or less than the federal minimum that’s currently $7.25 per hour.
The legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday would phase out the controversial practice over three years.
If enacted, the bill would immediately force the Labor Department to stop approving new businesses for certificates to pay subminimum wage. Companies already paying less to workers with disabilities would have up to three years to increase their wages to the federal minimum.
“Ensuring that Americans with disabilities receive equal pay for equal work is more than a matter of basic fairness, it’s a long-overdue acknowledgement of the value disabled Americans contribute to our workplaces every day,” said Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill along with Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.
The current effort to end subminimum wage comes just two months after the U.S. Senate dropped plans to address the issue amid controversy. A proposal in that body would have established regulations over who could work for low wages, but would not have ended the practice entirely.
It is unclear when the new legislation might be considered in the House and no similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.