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Subminimum Wage: Gatepath Makes Proactive Changes

News for 04.14.17
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By Tracey Carrillo Fecher, Gatepath Vice President of Programs

“It is amazing to see how the Gatepath employees always come to work happy and smiling, and they have a desire to learn and are excited about being in the job force,” said Chris Benson, Walgreens District Manager of Pharmacy & Retail Operations.

While the state of California permits pay below minimum wage for employees with developmental disabilities (through CA Labor codes 1191 and 1191.5), Gatepath and their employment partners—like Chris and the Walgreens team—have proactively phased out subminimum wage for Gatepath job seekers rather than waiting for legislation to catch up.

Chris spoke to the value of our partnership and the reason that Walgreens joined this proactive adjustment to raise the wage for employees.

“It goes back to the Gatepath employees being happy, and from a management standpoint, you’re always looking to boost customer service,” said Chris, recalling how each Gatepath employment participant has brought an infectious joy to work that both customers and employees appreciate. “It’s also empowering for team members to see how Walgreens participates in the community.”

We started our partnership with Chris and Walgreens more than eight years ago when Chris managed the store in Millbrae. The program continues today. This local Walgreens connection demonstrates the value of the win-win relationship, and like other organizations in San Mateo County, we’ve taken the lead in raising wages, and matching the rate of pay with the valuable contributions made by Gatepath job seekers.

A Quick History of the Subminimum Wage Provision

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) of 1938 was originally intended to encourage companies to hire veterans with disabilities. Today, the provision lets employers pay a subminimum wage using a performance-based calculation, comparing the productivity of a person with a disability to someone without a disability performing the same work.










In recent years, those opposed to the subminimum wage structure argue that it is a discriminatory practice that treats people with disabilities unfairly. Those in support of the subminimum wage believe that doing away with the law will result in fewer job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Gatepath’s Position on Subminimum Wage—and Leading the Way for Changes

While both sides continue to discuss the pros and cons of the subminimum wage practice, Gatepath has been proactively working to create an inclusive workforce that includes those with special needs and developmental disabilities. We see an inclusive world as one in which people are treated fairly in our schools, in our communities, and in our workplaces—and that includes receiving fair pay. We’ve seen for years that Gatepath employees are skilled, dedicated, dependable, and an asset to any organization. When matched with the right job, a person with a disability can thrive and contribute in the workplace. They deserve to be paid fairly for their work.

Sharing from a company standpoint, Chris said, “We’re regularly reevaluating the pay structure of our whole team, and it seemed a no-brainer to go forward with the relationship that has benefits.”

While several states have eliminated subminimum wage (and there are signs that the Federal law could be overturned at some point in the not-too-distant future), Gatepath has a long successful history of placing employees with disabilities in jobs throughout the Greater Bay Area.

In 2014, we began addressing the subminimum wage as one of Gatepath’s top organizational priorities. As of January 2017, we’re proud to say that no employees working on Gatepath contracts receive subminimum wage. Our more than 140 employment partners throughout the community have been extremely receptive and supportive of getting our employment participants to a full minimum wage. They are true proponents of full inclusion in the workplace, and helping lead the charge.

Partnerships with companies like Walgreens, help others see the benefits of an inclusive work environment for both employers and employees. We hope other organizations will follow.