S.C. leaders introduce bill hoping to end subminimum wage for people with disabilities

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 9:21 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A joint resolution was filed last Tuesday at the South Carolina Statehouse in the hopes of end subminimum wage for disabled South Carolinians.

Sen. Katrina Shealy introduced the joint resolution to prohibit the use of Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The certificate under the act allows employers to pay disabled people less than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Sarah Nichols, director of public relations for ABLE South Carolina, said if it passes a task force will assemble to create a three-year transition plan to phase out subminimum wage.

According to Nichols, it doesn’t mean someone will be fired but it does mean employers cannot hire anyone else under subminimum wage.

“You probably know someone if you are not yourself a person with a disability, and they deserve to be paid at least the minimum wage like everyone else,” Nichols said. “It’s just equal pay for equal work is what we’re asking for.”

Nichols said right now about 1,200 South Carolinians are paid subminimum wage. The U.S. Department of Labor tracks which businesses have the certificate and how many people they employ.

It shows nine South Carolina employers have a certificate and 11 others are pending.

The Georgetown County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs has a renewal pending certificate. The executive director said they applied for it with hesitation last year and haven’t used it.

However, WMBF News’ sister station in Charleston spoke with the disabilities board of Charleston County, who uses its certification and employs 322 people. The board there said subminimum wage isn’t bad, arguing the bill would have a negative impact on people with severe disabilities because they couldn’t find work without programs like they offer.

Nichols said they’re asking senators to co-sponsor the bill and vote yes to ending the federal act.

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