Tennessee bans paying less than minimum wage to people with disabilities

·1 min read
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that prohibited paying people with disabilities below the minimum wage, making it the ninth state to end the practice.

Under the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act, employers can apply for a certificate to pay people with disabilities “whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by a physical or mental disability, including those relating to age or injury, for the work to be performed” below the federal minimum wage.

Tennessee’s legislation would ban an employer in the state from applying for such a certificate to pay people with disabilities below the minimum wage.

“I’m just so proud it’s made it to the floor,” state representative Darren Jernigan said last month. The legislation passed Tennessee’s state house with 89 votes in support and zero opposed.

The law will go into effect the first day of July.

Disability rights advocates have pushed for an end to subminimum wage labour in recent years. President Joe Biden pledged to end it when he ran for president. When Democrats attempted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the American Rescue Plan last year, it would have also ended subminimum wage for people with disabilities.

But the Senate Parliamentarian ruled it could not be included in the legislation, effectively killing efforts to end subminimum wage on the federal level.

Meanwhile, action to end subminimum wage has proliferated on the state level. States as conservative as Texas and as liberal as Washington state have moved to end subminimum wage labour.

Other states with pending legislation include California, South Carolina and Alaska all have pending legislation, according to the Association of People Supporting Employment First