HOUSE DEMOCRATS NEWS
Legislation ensuring that New Mexicans with disabilities rightly receive at least the minimum wage for their work passed the House Floor Tuesday 48-19, and now goes to the Senate.
Sponsored by Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces), Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque) House Bill 214 repeals an existing statute allowing employers in New Mexico to pay persons with disabilities below the minimum wage. Currently, employers may apply to receive a certificate under Section 14(c) under the federal government’s Fair Labor Standards Acts of 1938, permitting them to pay subminimum wages to persons with disabilities.
“Allowing employers in our state to profit from the labor of individuals with disabilities, while not paying them a living wage, is exploitative and discriminatory,” said Rep Ferrary. “HB 214 takes an important first step to right this wrong, and fix the policies that have led to New Mexico ranking 43rd in the nation in employment for people with disabilities.”
“In January 2018, more than 400 disabled individuals in New Mexico were paid below minimum wage, legally,” said Rep Rubio. “Allowing this inequity to continue is in direct contrast to the civil rights protections guaranteed to all New Mexicans, and frankly, goes against everything our great state stands for.”
“Paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage tells them, and society as a whole, that they are worth ‘less than’ others,” said Rep. Thomson. “Not only does this antiquated law allow employers to pay hard-working New Mexicans less than what our state has established as a minimum wage, but the policy limits people with disabilities from realizing their full potential. Rather than taking advantage of these individuals, we should be empowering them and creating opportunities for them to succeed, just like anyone else.”
According to a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, programs which operate under Section 14(c) have “contributed to segregation of persons with disabilities.” Nationally there are over 1,500 workshops employing over 100,000 persons with disabilities being paid less than minimum wages. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia currently permit the use of subminimum wages for persons with disabilities.
Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings, and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.