TIME Act: It’s Time We Raise Our Expectations
November 16, 2018 | Sarah Patnaude, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern
What if the Federal Government said that you are not productive enough to be guaranteed a minimum wage due to having blonde hair? I bet that would incite outrage. Though this is exactly the outlandish discrimination the disability community experiences.
Many know that the Fair Labor Standards Act enacted in 1938 provides protections to workers, including the basic protection of the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25/hour. What many do not know is that there contains a clause that excludes the disability community from these protections. Section 14(c) allows employers to obtain a special certificate from the Department of Labor that will permit them to legally give their workers with disabilities a fraction of the pay workers without disabilities earn, simply due to their disability.
Based on the misconception that workers with disabilities cannot compete with their nondisabled peers in the workforce, this practice is just one of the many ways in which society insinuates that the disability community is inferior. Entities that pay their workers with disabilities subminimum wages demonstrate a core belief that those individuals do not have the capacity to be a contributing member of their staff.
I grew up with peers, professionals, and strangers constantly telling me that I would not be successful, that I could not and would not hold a job because I was blind. I was encouraged to minimize my dreams because of my disability.
The truth is people ultimately adjust to their surroundings. If someone is frequently confronted with low expectations, then that individual is going to lower their own standards for themselves to meet the low goal. For years, I lowered the bar for myself because I was taught that having a disability would hinder my ability to be a self-sufficient, contributing member of society. What a wonder that does to someone’s self-confidence and self-worth. But if people with disabilities, including myself, are met with the same assumptions and standards we as a society have of those without disabilities, then we will raise our own bar, providing us with the drive to accomplish more. This cycle of pushing to do bigger, to be better, and to be more is actively apparent with nondisabled workers, so why is it not applied to disabled workers?
Because the truth is disability does not equate to lower ability, lower competency, nor lower productivity.
That’s why the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act, H.R. 1377, is so important. By passing this legislation, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act will be phased out within a six-year time frame. Ultimately, the TIME Act understands the truth about workers with disabilities: that we are equal to our nondisabled peers. Ending this unjust practice of subminimum wages will create a more competitive work environment for all workers by promoting a change in our attitudes regarding disability in the workforce.
IT IS TIME we raise our expectations. IT IS TIME individuals with disabilities have equal rights and protections in the workforce. IT IS TIME we pass the TIME Act.
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Sarah Patnaude is a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. She interned with the Feminist Majority Foundation.