Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New law address pay for people with disabilities

Legislation ensuring individuals with disabilities are paid at least the minimum wage is now law in the First State.

The Jamie Wolfe Employment Act was signed by Gov. Carney in Wilmington Wednesday. Wolfe was a powerful disability rights advocate.

The law requires that the authorization to pay individuals with disabilities less than the minimum wage required to be paid to other employees will be phased out by January 31, 2024.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan was one of the bill’s main sponsors. She says many people with disabilities have been receiving much less than the minimum wage for their hard work.

"Studies have shown that an average employee in this situation earns $3.34 per hour and works 16 hours per week and many people make less than that. They're usually engaged in tasks such as packing, collating, or basic assembly of items."

The Employment First Oversight Commission is responsible for developing and implementing a plan for the phase-out.

It’s also responsible for ensuring the needs of affected providers and employees with disabilities working at less than minimum wage are considered as the phase-out is implemented.

Cindy Sterling is the Chair of the Delaware Employment First Oversight Commission.

"This is a system change, but a good system change. It's a challenge for all of us. It's not just one organization, it's going to take a team for us to look at our system and redesign our system and move forward and provide greater options for people with disabilities to be employed and be a part of their community."

State Rep. Debra Heffernan called the federal program allowing certain employers to pay people with disabilities sub-minimum wage discrimination and antiquated.