By Teresa Anderson, Director, Public Policy
October 4, 2021 – The Office of Disability Employment Policy recognizes October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month and they have chosen “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion” as the theme for this year’s awareness campaign. The theme is intended to reflect the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during (and beyond) the national recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. California is an Employment First State meaning that it has adopted a federal framework, implemented through AB 1041 in 2013, making it “the policy of the state that opportunities for integrated, competitive employment shall be given the highest priority for working age individuals with developmental disabilities regardless of the severity of their disability.”
On September 27, 2021 Governor Newson signed SB 639 ending the practice of paying sub-minimum wage to people with disabilities and strengthening the state’s commitment to ensuring real work for real pay. Provisions of SB 639 include an inclusive stakeholder-led process that phases out subminimum wage in California over the next three years. We look forward to working with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and other stakeholders, to draft a plan that will successfully transition employees with disabilities who are currently making sub-minimum wage to other employment opportunities where they will be afforded the same worker protections as every other Californian.
Wesley Witherspoon, Chair, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, shared his excitement about the new law saying “This is a historic day for all Californians but especially those in the disability community. We have worked long and hard so that disabled employees in our great state are paid fairly for their work. The minimum wage is an important protection that all workers deserve and is essential to help people achieve their goals. California was long overdue to end the subminimum wage and with this policy change, we can move forward to creating new opportunities that ensure that people with disabilities have meaningful days on many different levels.”