California is One Step Closer to Paying Workers with Disabilities Minimum Wage for Their Labor

Disability Advocates Applaud the Senate Labor Committee for Passing SB 639
Press Release

California is One Step Closer to Paying Workers with Disabilities Minimum Wage for Their Labor

Two people with a disability working in a small packing factory.
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Sacramento, CA) On Monday, March 22, 2021, SB 639 passed through the Senate Labor, Public Retirement and Employment Committee with a vote of 4-0. The bill will be heard next in the Senate Human Services Committee.

SB 639 would prohibit paying workers with disabilities less than the California minimum wage and be paid a fair wage just like every other worker. The legislation also advances economic justice for workers with disabilities by transitioning workers with disabilities to competitive integrated employment.

Since 1938, employers have been given the ability to apply for a certificate that allows them to pay employees with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage and pay them unfairly. If SB 639 is enacted, California will join several other states that have already prohibited paying workers with disabilities a subminimum wage and redefine an outdated system.

“We thank Senator María Elena Durazo for authoring SB 639 and applaud the members of the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee for passing the bill with a vote of 4-0. This bill puts an end to paying workers with disabilities sub-poverty wages and ensures these workers are offered equal protection of the law just like every other worker,” says Andrew Imparato, Executive Director, Disability Rights California. 

"We are moving in the right direction to end subminimum wage in California. I am grateful that the author and the committee members recognized that paying people with disabilities below the standard minimum wage is a civil rights issue," said Wesley Witherspoon, Chair, State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Over 5,000 Californians with disabilities are currently working in sheltered workshops, and are being paid as little as 15 cents an hour. SB 639 develops a plan to transition these workers into decent-paying jobs and provides individualized support during this transition. Californians in support of SB 639 can send a letter of support to the Senate Human Services Committee members.

Link to sample letter here

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938



Disability Rights California (DRC) is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities. For more information visit:

State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) Congress established the State Councils in every state and territory 51 years ago. The Councils are authorized in the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (the DD Act) to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families design and can access services and supports that “promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion” in community life. The Lanterman Act establishes the SCDD in California to be comprised of 31 members appointed by the Governor, including individuals with disabilities, their families, other partners and state agencies. The SCDD develops a five-year state plan to implement the DD Act through the work of 12 regional offices in California. The plan is developed with stakeholder input and is focused on addressing systemic barriers to employment, housing, education, community supports, health and safety for persons with developmental disabilities.