Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park) announced the City of Seattle will change the Minimum Wage ordinance to prevent employers from paying any worker with a disability less than Seattle’s minimum wage. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) will begin rule revisions to the ordinance this month, to propose elimination of special certificates permitting subminimum wages for certain employees with disabilities, which are currently allowed under the law.
“The point of our historic $15 minimum wage law was to build universal equity in Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “A loophole allowing subminimum wages for disabled workers has undermined that goal. We are correcting that error to make good on our promise and our values.”
“Subminimum wages are an outdated practice that inherently devalue the employee receiving them,” said Councilmember Herbold. “With so few subminimum wage certificates issued to employers, now is the perfect time to end this practice and lead the region in ending this discriminatory policy.”
The ordinance as currently enacted mirrors Washington state law, permitting employers to pay less than minimum wage. The Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities voted unanimously at its June meeting to end this exemption. OLS Director Dylan Orr, who served for more than five years at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), including two years as chief of staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), supports the rule revisions.
“I commend the continued commitment on behalf of the Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities, the Mayor’s Office, and City Council to act quickly,” said Orr. “We must remind ourselves that when one person or group is marginalized or discriminated against, we all are.”
The proposed subminimum wage revisions are part of a larger effort to update Chapter 90 Rules to reflect legislation passed during the 2017 budget process establishing OLS as an independent office; changes resulting from the Wage Theft Prevention and Harmonization Ordinance of 2015; revisions to Washington State’s minimum wage law resulting from Initiative 1433; and to address service charges and employer payments toward individual employee’s medical benefits plans; and other requests for clarification from the public. OLS issued these revisions for notice and comment in late February 2017. OLS will issue further draft revisions to Chapter 90 Rules for notice and comment in August 2017. The Council will receive and vote on omnibus legislation, including the subminimum wage revisions, from OLS before the end of the year.