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San Diego Minimum Wage Hike Won’t Include Some Disabled Workers

Credit: AP Photo/Sam Hodgson

A Carl's Jr. employee serves a customer through a drive-thru window in San Diego on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

Aired 8/5/14 on KPBS News.

Workers with mental or physical disabilities who are currently paid less than the minimum wage will not be getting a raise under San Diego's new minimum wage law.

Workers with mental or physical disabilities who are currently paid less than the minimum wage will not be getting a raise under San Diego's new minimum wage law.

When the City Council voted to raise the minimum wage, Council President Todd Gloria said the new law "includes no exemptions for any industry or business." But the ordinance does include a few exemptions.

It says people who won't be eligible for the increase to $11.50 an hour by 2017 "include any person who is authorized to be employed at less than the minimum wage under a special license issued under California Labor Code sections 1191 or 1191.5."

Those state labor code sections say "an employee who is mentally or physically handicapped" can be issued a special license authorizing him or her to work at less than the minimum wage and "a nonprofit organization such as a sheltered workshop or rehabilitation facility" can get special licenses to employ those people at less than the minimum wage.

Jessica Lawrence, a policy adviser in Gloria's office, confirmed that these workers will be exempt from the increase.

"We chose to mirror state law for certain workers with disabilities employed in job training programs as this is widely recognized as appropriate and good policy across the state," she wrote in an email.

Lawrence didn't know how many workers would be exempt but said they're "confident that it is a minimal amount."

In December 2013, U-T San Diego reported some of these workers are paid between $2 and $4 an hour, and that 550 of them work for Goodwill Industries of San Diego County.

Sharon Corrigan, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of San Diego County, declined to comment on San Diego's minimum wage increase.

The ordinance also excludes from the increase "any person employed under a publicly subsidized summer or short-term youth employment program, such as the San Diego County Urban Corps Program; or any student employee, camp counselor, or program counselor of an organized camp," as well as independent contractors.

Home care workers employed by county or state In-Home Supportive Services programs will be eligible for the wage increase to $9.75 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015; $10.50 an hour by 2016; and $11.50 an hour by 2017.

Craig Sturak, a spokesman for the county's Health and Human Services Agency, said their home care workers are currently paid $9.85 an hour, so they won't be affected by the first pay bump. The county is still evaluating the impact of the increased wages in 2016 and beyond, Sturak said.

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