Keeping America Humming
All persons are entitled to the same basic human rights, including an equal opportunity to earn fair wages. In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we recognize the contributions of persons living with disabilities and how they keep America’s workplaces and the economy humming. Beyond celebration, Options For All continuously takes action to support those with disabilities.
A “New Deal” regulation dating to 1938 allows employers to compensate staff with disabilities at a rate less than the federal minimum wage. This practice is particularly egregious when it comes to individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). In California alone, where this outdated workplace approach is still legal, over 12,000 I/DD adults are ensnared by a system which pays an average of $3.34 per hour. However, great news is on the horizon. Senate Bill 639 (Durazo), spearheaded in part by Options For All, would banish this practice by requiring businesses to pay all employees at least the minimum wage, including those with disabilities. The effort to end subminimum wages has successfully made its way through the California legislature, and now awaits signature by the governor.
Options For All exists to serve I/DD individuals and advocate for them becoming full participating members of their communities. Competitive integrated employment with fair wages is a key component to having the same rights as all others in the community.
Randy Smith, a participant at Options For All, has experienced the transition to competitive integrated employment when he joined the Supported Employment program in 2019. Randy was previously employed at a group employment site for a device manufacturer where he was compensated based off of his productivity and made as little as $3.20 an hour. When asking Randy’s Case Manager about his transition, she stated: “Randy started at Options For All around the time I did and is doing well at his employment site. It is mind-blowing knowing he was getting paid only $3.20 and living in San Diego. Now he makes a little over the minimum wage and he loves his job!”
Options For All’s Supported Employment service works with more than 200 local businesses to identify jobs or volunteer opportunities that are a good fit and can offer their participants between 6 to 20 hours of employment per week. Randy now works at Home Depot in their gardening department where he interacts with customers, tends to the plants and inventory, contributes to a team, and more importantly, is compensated a living wage in doing so.
“My favorite part about working at Home Depot is helping customers! And watering the plants. If there’s no watering to be done, there’s always more to do,” Randy gleamed as he proudly showed tended his section.