King County bars sub-minimum wage for employees, contractors

Employees with disabilities can not be paid less than minimum wage.

File photo

File photo

Employees of King County and its service contractors will now be barred from paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage.

The ordinance barring the practice was approved by the King County Metropolitan Council at a meeting on Nov. 13. County documents said staff is not aware of any employees currently working under waiver from the state, which allows employers to pay them less than minimum wage. But Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said he hopes it sets a precedent both locally and for the Washington state Legislature.

“Sadly, we still see a lot of inequity and a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities,” he said.

In 2014, the council adopted an ordinance which established a living wage requirement for county employees and employees of service contractors. It contained several exemptions, including for people with disabilities. Specifically for employers who received a certificate from the state Department of Labor and Industries which said that sub-minimum wage wages were needed to prevent a reduction in employment opportunities.

Since then, there has been a discussion locally and nationally about the issue. In 2018 Seattle removed a provision allowing for less than minimum wage to be paid to people with disabilities.

The county ordinance was approved but is not retroactive, meaning current businesses and organizations under contract for services won’t be affected. The ordinance directs the county executive to eliminate any possible sub-minimum wage loopholes by early next year.

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