Currently under the Office of Labor Standards rules a business can get an exemption in order to pay disabled workers less that the city’s minimum wage (though not less than the state minimum wage). That’s about to change in Seattle.
This morning the City Council moved out of committee a bill that would remove the ability for the city to issue such exemptions.
The exemption is currently administered under a state definition, for “individuals whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury.” The intent, as specified under the state law, is “to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment.” However, as heard in testimony this morning, this can lead to people living with a disability — who still need to earn a living — stuck in subminimum wage jobs potentially for their entire adult life. The Seattle Commission for People With Disabilities has urged the city to do away with the exemption.
The bill passed out of committee unanimously this morning, and will come up for final approval on Monday afternoon.
UPDATE: An aide for Council member Lisa Herbold pointed out to me that the Office of Labor Standards updated its Director’s Rules in September of 2017 to prohibit issuing exemptions to the minimum wage for people with disabilities. So this change was already city practice, but now will be codified in law.