Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed a bill on Thursday that aims to eliminate subminimum wages for disabled employees in the state.
In the U.S., employees are paid a minimum wage ranging from $7.25 to $15 per hour, depending on the state. Many activists have pushed to raise the minimum wage. But under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies and businesses can apply for 14(c) certificates that allow them to pay disabled employees well below that number, with many earning less than $3.50 an hour.
Kansas’ Senate Bill 15 aims to create more employment opportunities for disabled workers in Kansas and incentivize employers to move away from paying them below the minimum wage by using a matching grant program and expanded income tax credit eligibility.
“Kansans with disabilities deserve a fair wage for the work they perform,” Kelly said in a statement “I’m signing this bipartisan legislation to create more opportunities for people with disabilities, grow our workforce, and ensure every Kansan can work with dignity and respect.”
With this bill, businesses who employ and pay disabled Kansas workers at least minimum wage would be eligible for income tax credit. In addition, the bill would eliminate the work-hour minimum required for disabled workers in the state to qualify for health insurance.
According to U.S. Government Accountability Office, the number of employers authorized to pay disabled workers subminimum wages certificates has decreased from 3,117 in 2010 to 1,567 in 2019. Still, as of last year, about 120,000 people in the U.S. were employed under these certificates and subjected to subminimum wages.
In September, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it is reviewing its 14(c) certificate program, but it is unclear whether it plans to eliminate it.
Efforts have been made on a state and federal level to address the issue. Kansas is among at least 16 states that have passed legislation to eliminate 14(c) subminimum wage certificates. Last year, a group of bipartisan legislators reintroduced the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, which would put an end to the practice nationwide.