Minimum wage exemptions for disabled workers out

A regulatory change in effect on Feb. 16 requires that Alaska employers no longer are allowed to pay less than minimum wage to workers with disabilities.

With the repeal of a state statue to that effect, Alaska joins New Hampshire and Maryland as the first states to eliminate subminimum wages for those with disabilities.

Historically minimum wage exemptions were considered necessary to help those with disabilities get jobs, but the past two decades have shown that workers with disabilities can succeed in jobs earning minimum wage or more.

“They deserve minimum wage protections as much as any other Alaskan worker,” said Alaska Labor Commissioner Greg Cashen.

The state received written comments expressing support for repealing the subminimum regulation from the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education, the State Vocational Rehabilitation Committee, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Alaska Workforce Investment Board. The regulatory change brings employment practices into alignment with the Alaska Employment First Act of 2014, which requires vocational services to help people with disabilities to become gainfully employed at or above the minimum wage.