Every once in a while, one of those “Never Have I Ever” lists pops up in my Facebook feed. These are the posts that ask you to check off a list of things that you have or never have done. I laugh a little because I immediately whisper to my phone, “Never have I ever answered any of these”. I must admit that I do kind of peek at the things that are listed (and maybe I keep a rough count of my results in my head). Topics like “foods never eaten” or “things never done”: simple and “folksy” topics. I have some additions for these lists.
“Never Have I Ever… refused a job offer or a raise because I would earn too much”
“Never Have I Ever… had to negotiate down the wage before I could take a job”
“Never Have I Ever… lost my health insurance because I got a job”
Nebraskans with disabilities who use Medicaid risk losing Medicaid if they earn too much (above the poverty level). Nebraska has a program called the “Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities” where people with disabilities can make money above poverty and keep their Medicaid. Some may pay a premium if they are earning the most. Nebraska Medicaid is working to increase the number of Nebraskans with disabilities who know about and could use this program. For more information, check out Medicaid’s webpage.
“Never Have I Ever… worked for less than minimum wage”
“Never Have I Ever… been paid $3.34 an hour for my work”
The federal law that sets the minimum wage also allows employers to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage, simply because they have a disability. Employers can get approval from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage. If employers file for a 14(c) certificate they can pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage. The wage is based on how quickly they can work compared to employees without a disability. Workers with disabilities are then paid that percentage of the wage. However, workers without disabilities get minimum wage regardless because they are not subject to the 14(c) certificate loophole. Workers employed in these situations earned $3.34 per hour, on average, between 2017 and 2018.
Twelve Nebraska employers have or are waiting for their subminimum wage certificates. As of July 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor records 178 Nebraskans with disabilities being paid less than minimum wage. But this number could increase when “pending” certificates become “issued”. For more information, watch "Bottom Dollars" or check out resources from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and National Council on Disability.
“Never Have I Ever… talked to my senator.”
You have many chances to let senators know what they need to know about employment and wages for people with disabilities. They need to understand how their decisions will help or hurt people with disabilities. Check out this current study on the wages of Nebraskans with disabilities. For more information or assistance, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad is the Public Policy Director at Disability Rights Nebraska. For the agency, Brad works on public policy issues and legislation affecting people with disabilities in Nebraska. Outside of the agency, he coaches high school debate and lives with his cat, Little Kitty Half-tooth.