Today at Special Olympics Alaska, Governor Mike Dunleavy singed Senate Bill 185 to repeal an antiquated statute which has allowed employers to pay Alaskans with a physical or mental disability subminimum wage. The bill, sponsored by Senate President Peter Micciche, ensures individuals who are impaired by disabilities, age, or injury, are not discriminated against in jobs where performance aligns with their counterparts. The bill signing ceremony was attended Senator Micciche and Sue Perles of Special Olympic Alaska.
“Alaskans with disabilities play a valuable role throughout our state. Competitive and unified employment provides individuals with a sense of pride, financial security, stable living conditions, access to better health management, and increased independence. By signing Senate Bill 185, we can show our fellow Alaskans with disabilities that we support them and will continue to advocate for them in the workplace and beyond,” said Governor Dunleavy. “I’d like to thank Sue Perles and her team at Special Olympics Alaska for welcoming us here today and for being involved in this process. The work you do in this community is immeasurable and really sets an outstanding example. I’d also like to thank Senator Micciche for his work on this bill, and those in the Legislature for supporting this effort. I am proud to sign SB 185 and ensure excellent opportunities for Alaskans with disabilities.”
In 2018, the State of Alaska repealed 8 AAC 15.120, a regulation which permitted employers to hire individuals for subminimum wage. Senate Bill 185 repeals AS 23.10.070, the statute that allowed for the regulation, ensuring no Alaskan with disability will get paid less than their worth.
“Many Alaskans with disabilities are actively and productively employed in workplaces throughout Alaska,” said Senator Peter Micciche. “They are not second-class citizens, or ‘bargain employees.’ It is unfair for people to be discriminated against where their performance is most often equal or superior to their counterparts not experiencing a disability. It is demeaning to judge a person on the basis of their disability by paying them a salary that is less than they are worth. As Alaskans, we are better than that. Senate Bill 185 is a way for us to acknowledge the value of all Alaskans in the workplace and ensure that people are paid fairly for their knowledge and job performance.”
“Special Olympics Alaska is proud to host the signing of SB 185. This bill ensures that individuals with disabilities, including our Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities, will be paid at least minimum wage,” said Sue Perles, CEO of Special Olympics Alaska. “They are worth every penny and so much more!”
Senate Bill 185 also includes a narrowly defined exemption for nonprofit resident camps that provide staff with room and board, professional development and training, which must first be approved by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner. The added language allows for camps to have a predictable and consistent process for budgeting and planning for staff wages. This protection ensures that various camps for Alaskan youth may continue operations while paying staff within the national norms for resident camps across the country.