Growing anger over paying disabled workers less than minimum wage and how individuals on workers’ compensation feel the pinch.
Disability activists recently planned a demonstration at the Michigan State Capitol during an ADA anniversary celebration. The reason being that sponsors of the event pay individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage and because the Capitol itself is not fully ADA-compliant. You can read the full story in an article published by the Detroit Free Press.
Activists say the practice of paying certain disabled people less than the minimum wage is exploitative and it goes against the principle that people with disabilities should be treated as equal members of society. Defenders say it is a learning experience for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to work and the social interaction is a benefit.
We find this debate fascinating as our clients face similar issues. Many of these $2 per hour jobs are for charities that are not required to pay minimum wage. Individuals receive the difference in pay from workers’ compensation insurance. The goal is to get the person to quit and give up his or her benefits. We have even heard of some charities getting kick backs to offer these positions.
Another issue involves “wage earning capacity.” Michigan law was amended in 2011 creating a new category of partially disabled worker. It allows insurance companies to reduce workers’ compensation benefits using phantom wages from a job that is not actually offered. The idea is to make a distinction between people who are totally disabled and those who could find alternate work. This sounds reasonable but does not function as promised.
Just because an insurance company says a job is available does not make it so. Partially disabled workers have to compete with individuals who have no impairments at all. This inequity is reflected in a much higher unemployment rate. According to the United States Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was twice the figure for those with no disability.
Many of our clients have been doing heavy work for their entire life. The transition to light or sedentary work can be extremely difficult. Retraining and education are almost always required. We should be doing more to help these people transition to a new job. Paying minimum wage is the very least we can do.
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation today.
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