COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In Ohio, it is legal for people with disabilities to get paid below minimum wage.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, the idea behind the sub-minimum wage is so people with disabilities have more opportunities for work. Lawmakers behind House Bill 716 say that shouldn’t be the case.
“We should be paying them at a rate and at a level where they can thrive in the state,” Representative Donatvius Jarrells (D-Columbus) said.
$9.30 is minimum wage in Ohio and $4.25 is sub-minimum wage, but Ohioans with disabilities can make even less, based off their performance according to federal guidelines.
“When these folks are hired to do jobs, they should be paid the same as their able-bodied nondisabled peers,” Representative Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) said.
The bill does raise some concerns. While Republican Representative Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) agreed that having a discussion around this topic is important, he said this bill risks losing jobs for Ohioans with disabilities.
“If their disability is so severe that they can’t perform to the standard, it gives the employer the right to pay them less. Not less than their value, they pay them up to their value,” Lipps said.
Lipps said it is about more than just making money to some people with the most severe disabilities.
“You may say they made less than minimum wage and I would say to you there was no output,” said Lipps. “There were other reasons we employed that individual because they had other benefits than just the income, we are also looking at socialization opportunities.”
He said 70 companies across the state use sub-minimum wage standards to employ people with disabilities and some companies pay people with disabilities well above Ohio’s minimum wage based on their performance. Lipps said he knows one company that pays some employees with disabilities $18 an hour.
“Might there be employers abusing in the program? Absolutely. So out of these seventy employers are all seventy paying at standard rate? My feeling is yes, or they wouldn’t be taking the time to hire disabled individuals,” Lipps said.
“We’ve got to have a conversation and this bill is going to jump start what it means to have fair wages for people with disabilities,” Jarrells said.
This bill would eliminate sub-minimum wage 18 months after being passed.
Representatives Jarells and Lipps said this bill is a good starting point for a long overdue conversation and shines a light to help Ohioans with disabilities.