Clinton Vows To Close Loophole That Allows The Disabled To Be Paid Less Than Minimum Wage

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Monday that if she is elected, she will take on an issue that no other candidate has ever focused on before: Ending the loophole that allows workers with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage.

During a campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton was asked by Nikki Vander Meulen, an autistic attorney, where she stood on closing the Section 14(c) loophole in the federal minimum wage that grants employers an exemption to this minimum when paying employees that have disabilities. The majority of Americans have no idea that such a loophole even exists, but it has forced many people with disabilities to work for slave wages for decades.

Clinton said that as president, she would close this loophole:

When it comes to jobs, we’ve got to figure out how we get the minimum wage up and include people with disabilities in the minimum wage. There should not be a tiered wage, and right now there is a tiered wage when it comes to facilities that do provide opportunities but not at a self-sufficient wage that enables people to gain a degree of independence as far as they can go. So I want us to take a hard look at raising the minimum wage and ending the tiered minimum wages, whether it’s for people with disabilities or the tipped wage. …

When people talk about raising the minimum wage, they don’t always talk about the legal loopholes that we have in it and I want to get rid of those and I want to get rid of that for people with disabilities too.

Not every disabled worker is subject to the Section 14(c) loophole, only employers with special Section 14(c) certificates have the option to pay people with disabilities less than their able-bodied peers. It is currently estimated that 228,600 people are being underpaid through Section 14(c) at 2,820 employers throughout the United States.

Section 14(c) dates back to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which was responsible for originally enacting a minimum wage, and set the minimum wage for workers with disabilities at a percentage of the federal minimum wage. In 1986, an amendment to Section 14(c) eliminated any minimum for workers with disabilities.

According to an investigation of Goodwill Industries by NBC News, who is one of the most prominent organizations who exploits the loophole, some of their workers in Pennsylvania were being paid as little as $0.22 an hour.

Historically, the disability community has been ignored by politicians, mostly because they haven’t been seen as an organized and influential voter base. But Clinton’s comments today make it clear that times are changing.

Nikki Vander Meulen, who asked Clinton the question about the Section 14(c) loophole, was pleased with the candidate’s answer.

Hillary Clinton’s answer to my question was exactly the answer I had hoped to hear. Any and all Presidential candidates need to understand that the issue of sub-minimum wage is not a political issue but a human rights issue.

Featured image via Scott Olson/Getty Images

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