Far below minimum wage
Some say low pay for the disabled is immoral; others view the federal law as a godsend
By Jill Riepenhoff
Thousands of adults with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities work in Ohio at jobs that pay less money than a teen-age baby sitter earns.
Some clean hotel rooms for 40 cents an hour. Others sew table linens for 79 cents an hour. Some assemble automotive parts for $2.15 an hour or answer telephones for $3.75 an hour.
The majority don't earn half of the state minimum wage of $7.40.
A little-known provision in the 73-year-old federal wage law allows employers to pay less than minimum wage if adults have disabilities that limit their productivity.
The Fair Labor Standards Act once dictated how little was too little to pay a worker. But today, there is no floor, clearing the way for some to earn as little as a penny an hour.
The wage issue has divided the very community that seeks the highest quality of life for people with disabilities. The difference of opinion is stark:
"It's immoral," said Curtis L. Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.
"This has been a godsend," said Ted Williams, whose autistic son earns a low wage at his job in Columbus...
With critics saying low wages show that people with disabilities are being exploited and supporters saying the pay rates reflect opportunities, where do you stand? Share your thoughts in the comments below.