Have you ever heard of a “sheltered workshop?” These workplaces hire people living with disabilities, which is a noble intention indeed. But the problem with these sheltered workshops is that they pay their employees mere pennies on the dollar of other employees. In other words, people with disabilities are paid substandard minimum wage during a time when there has been a national outcry to raise the minimum wage. In fact, the president recently agreed to increase the minimum wage of workers under federal contractors. That order includes people living with disabilities.
So it raises the question: how does this apply to sheltered workshops? The answer is complicated. Sheltered workshops fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. That law was meant to help military veterans with disabilities, and it allows companies to pay them at rates that are under the minimum wage.
On the one hand, this could be seen as a public good. It grants people living with disabilities a chance to earn a living. However, sheltered workshops practically force these people who are living with disabilities to live an impoverished life. The Americans with Disabilities Act certainly helps to establish the idea that people with disabilities should be in mainstream workplaces, not necessarily sheltered workshops.
Ultimately the hope is that people living with disabilities are treated fairly and given the opportunity to work in positions they want to work. Regardless of where people work, Social Security disability can play a huge role in a worker’s financial situation, given that they can substantiate their claim and that their claim is accepted.
Source: NPR, “Subminimum Wages For The Disabled: Godsend Or Exploitation?,” Cheryl Corley, April 23, 2014