Oregon Senate approves bill to phase out sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities

Apr 16, 2019

People with disabilities could no longer be paid less than minimum wage under a bill approved  Tuesday in the Oregon Senate.

Federal and state law allows certain employers to pay people with intellectual or physical impairments less than minimum wage. The idea was to help them find employment even if they weren’t considered as productive as a non-impaired person. Most of the organizations contract with government agencies for janitorial or grounds-keeping work.

Corvallis Democratic Senator Sara Gelser has been trying for years to correct what she calls an inequity. “Make no mistake," she said. "People with disabilities know what their paychecks are.”

Senate Bill 494 would phase out the sub-minimum wage for disabled workers by 2023. Gelser says the extra cost to their employers would generally be the responsibility of the government agencies they contract with. The Senate approved the bill 20-10 on a mostly party line vote. The measure now heads to the Oregon House.