- Employers in Alaska can no longer pay workers with disabilities a subminimum wage, the state's labor department has announced.
- The practice has been sanctioned for decades, under certain circumstances, by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but three states states — Alaska, Maryland and New Hampshire — have banned the practice for employers under their jurisdictions.
- Historically, minimum-wage exemptions were considered necessary to help people with disabilities gain employment, Alaska's Department of Labor and Workforce Development explained in a press release. But experience over the past two decades has shown that workers with disabilities can succeed in jobs earning minimum wage or more, it said.
Employers continue to use the U.S. Department of Labor's subminimum wage certification program, and a debate about its usefulness and appropriateness continues to rage. As an NPR story put it: some say it's a godsend, while others say it's an example of good intentions gone wrong.
At the same time, however, some employers are making headlines with diversity and inclusion initiatives that include workers with disabilities. The Ford Motor Company, for example, announced that it would expand its recruitment program to seek out workers with autism. Starbucks garnered attention, too, when it offered deaf employees aprons with the coffee retailer's name spelled out in sign language. The aprons help connect the workers with customers, many of whom might not have known they were deaf, according to the company.