Alaska tosses rule that let employers pay people with disabilities below minimum wage

Alaska has repealed a regulation that long allowed employers to pay workers with disabilities below the state's minimum wage.

The change goes into effect Friday, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development said in a press release. The department proposed getting rid of the exemption last year.

Under the rule, employers had to get a waiver to pay workers less than the state minimum wage, which went up by 4 cents to $9.84 on Jan. 1. As of last year, only four employers in the state had such a waiver, but not all of them used it.

[Alaska wants to get rid of minimum wage exemption for people with disabilities]

"Historically, minimum wage exemptions were considered necessary to help people with disabilities gain employment," the labor department's statement said. "Experience over the past two decades has shown that workers with disabilities can succeed in jobs earning minimum wage or more."

The regulation had been in place in Alaska since 1978. At the federal level, the exemption from paying at least minimum wage to people with disabilities started in 1938 with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Alaska joins New Hampshire and Maryland as the first states to get rid of sub-minimum wage for employees with disabilities, the labor department said.

Annie Zak

Annie Zak was a business reporter for the ADN between 2015 and 2019.