COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — According to advocacy groups, there are more than 1,000 people with disabilities working in South Carolina who are being paid less than the federal minimum wage.
Right now, employers can apply for a 14-C Certificate from the federal government. This waiver allows them to pay certain employees less than $7.25 an hour based on the “perceived impact the employee’s disability has on their ability to perform the job.”
Last year, a joint resolution that would prohibit subminimum wage passed the Senate unanimously. That legislation could be taken to the House floor ahead of the end of this year’s session. There are six days left before the legislative session is over on May 12.
ABLE SC President and CEO Kimberly Tissot said they support the end of subminimum wage in SC. She says, “We have people making $2 an hour, some making $1.25 an hour in our state.”
Some state lawmakers have expressed concerns over unintended consequences. Representative Bart Blackwell (R-Aiken) is a member of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry committee. He was a part of the unanimous vote to send the amended version of the legislation to the House floor.
Currently, the joint resolution would establish a task force responsible for coming up with a plan that benefits employers and employees to phase out the practice of ‘subminimum wage’. Blackwell supports the bill but doesn’t want to see anyone left behind.
“That’s what the task force is going to have to look at over the course of the next two years,” Blackwell said. “Figure out what the best approach is to phase out the subminimum wage and still provide for those individuals, that so much want to work and can make a contribution, but maybe not to the level where an employer can justify a minimum wage.”
If the bill is signed into law this year, the prohibition would take effect in August 2024.
Tissot and other advocates are hopeful the bill will cross the finish this year. She said, “Ending subminimum wage for people with disabilities means that we have an equal opportunity, like nondisabled people, to be paid what we’re worth.”