Melwood Endorses Critical Legislation to End the Subminimum Wage for People with Disabilities
April 12, 2021
UPPER MARLBORO, MD, April 12, 2021 – Melwood is proud to support the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 2373) introduced by Representatives Bobby Scott and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The bill will finally end an 83-year-old discriminatory practice allowing employers to pay people with disabilities as little as $2.15 per hour while subjecting them to stressful and demoralizing time trials.
Melwood has been a champion for the elimination of the subminimum wage for many years and successfully advocated to ban the practice in the State of Maryland. “For people with disabilities, this is more than a financial issue, it’s a civil rights one,” said Melwood President & CEO, Larysa Kautz. “On behalf of Melwood and our more than 1,600 employees across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., including nearly 1,000 employees with disabilities, I would like to express our support for this critical legislation.”
The existing subminimum wage law comes from Section 14(c) of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and was written at a time when lawmakers thought that people with disabilities couldn’t – or shouldn’t – work like any other employee. Today, people with all types of disabilities have proven that they have the same abilities, desires, and motivations to work and earn a paycheck as the rest of our community. “We just have to break down the barriers and ceilings that have been in place for a very long time,” said Kautz.
Melwood believes the continued practice of paying people with disabilities lower than minimum wage reinforces the discriminatory premise that a person with a disability is not capable of working and adding the same level of value to a job as a person without a disability. It is this bigotry of low expectations that foreshadows, and often directly causes, a life of poverty, segregation, and dependence on public support for the people that Melwood serves. Because of the continuation of this policy, an estimated 400,000 people with disabilities are currently treated as though the value of one hour of their time is worth less than the minimum value that we, as a society, have deemed for an hour of work for every other citizen.
Our collective goal should be to ensure that all people, regardless of race, gender, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, have the same opportunities to live lives of their choosing in an inclusive community and workforce.
This legislation represents a thoughtful approach to ending the outdated and unfair practice of paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities by not only phasing out Section 14(c), but also including funding to help states and providers transform business models to support individuals with disabilities while transitioning to competitive integrated employment.
Melwood thanks Representatives Bobby Scott and McMorris Rodgers for their leadership on this important issue of equity and inclusion.
Melwood is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in the country, employing more than 1,600 workers – nearly 1,000 of whom are people with disabilities. Melwood offers job placement, job training, life skills for independence, and support services to more than 2,500 people each year in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Melwood also has an inclusive summer camp program for children and provides employment and support services to veterans and active duty military members who have experienced service-related trauma or injury. For more information, visit www.Melwood.org.
Vice President of Government Relations