As background, everyone knows that Connecticut has a minimum wage law for employment (now at $8.00 per hour, going up to $8.25 for 2010). While there are some limited exceptions to that rule (most notably for servers and bartenders who get a tip and some apprentices), it is now viewed as a societal norm that everyone should get a minimum wage for work performed.
But Connecticut and the federal government have another exception that is not as widely known.
For example, in Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-67, the Department of Labor may issue "to any person whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury, a special license authorizing employment at such wages less than the minimum fair wage and for such period of time as is fixed by the commissioner and stated in the license."
Federal law has something similar, the background of which can be found at the DOL’s website here. Employers that use such sub-minimum wage rates have special notice obligations as well.
In general terms, this provision basically ALLOWS employers to get government approval to pay employees with some disabilities less than minimum wage. We can debate whether this law still servers a purpose in today’s workplace where those with disabilities are to be treated equally.
But there is no doubt that this program does impact those in Connecticut and is being used. For example, in the Hartford area, HARC helps people with an intellectual disability with various work programs at local companies. HARC, which was founded in 1951, has placements at companies as varied as lawfirms to hospitals.
For employers, it is an example of how conventional wisdom about minimum wage may not hold up. And perhaps it may open up an opportunity to a group of individuals who might not otherwise find employment.