Employment for people with disabilities is a key issue of disability advocates. Thanks to Walmart, this advocacy issue has been in the front-page news. It’s become a talking point — and we’re glad to join in on the conversation.
The Importance of Integrated Employment
Employment for people with disabilities is crucial to the success of our communities. In fact, it’s a way to determine how well a state is serving its residents with disabilities.
The Case for Inclusion
For example, in the annual report The Case for Inclusion, states are evaluated on 5 key areas including promoting productivity. This area focuses on integrated employment for people with disabilities.
What Is Integrated Employment?
Integrated employment is more than just a job. It’s a job that pays people with disabilities a market wage. It’s also a job where people with disabilities work alongside people without disabilities.
Walmart Announced Getting Rid of Greeters — and Received Major Backlash
In February 2019, Walmart announced it would be phasing out its greeter roles. These are the blue-vested employees at the front doors of 1,000 Walmart stores across the nation.
New Walmart Role Disqualifies People With Disabilities
Many who fill the greeter role have a disability. Their greeter job provides more than just an income — it gives them a sense of pride and connects them to their community.
Instead of the greeter roles, Walmart would be introducing the customer host role. This role has physical requirements that many of the greeters with disabilities could not perform. From standing for long periods of time to lifting 25-pound packages, it would disqualify Walmart employees with disabilities.
In response to this news — which started gaining traction on social media before local news picked up the story — angered customers called Walmart. Petitions started, and tens of thousands of people signed. Facebook groups emerged in support.
These advocacy efforts paid off. At the end of February, Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores, told store managers that Walmart was taking steps to support their greeters with disabilities. They are offering them new roles at their stores.
More Change Is Needed — End Subminimum Wage
While Walmart’s announcement they would support their employees with disabilities was a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go. Another step in the right direction is ending the subminimum wage.
People With Disabilities Earn Less Due to Outdated Law
A law from the 1930s allows businesses to pay their employees with disabilities less than the federally mandated minimum wage. This law is based on the misconception that people with disabilities have lower productivity.
New Laws Making Headway
Thankfully, there is a bill in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would end subminimum wage. Called the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (S. 260), the bill would require the Labor Department to stop issuing the certificates that allow businesses to pay subminimum wages. It would also phase out any current certificates over a six-year period.
To help businesses transition to integrated employment, the bill also provides grants and establishes a technical assistance center. The idea is all businesses should provide integrated employment, and this bill would help do that.
Incentives for Businesses to Provide Integrated Employment
In addition to the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, there is newly introduced legislation that would give businesses more incentives to integrate employment. The Disability Employment Act (S. 255) would expand three tax credits already available to employers.
These tax credits are for businesses that hire people with disabilities. It also supports businesses that make their locations more accessible.
What You Can Do to Increase Integrated Employment
As we’ve seen with Walmart, advocating works. Spread your message on social media. Call out the companies that need to employ more people with disabilities. You can also reach out to your legislators. Ask them to support the two bills: The Disability Employment Act (S. 255) and the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (S. 260).