On May 23, 2022 (S.533), a bill to end subminimum wage in South Carolina, was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster following years of grassroots advocacy. South Carolina has become the third state in the Southeast and the twelfth in the nation to pass legislation, breaking from federal law by ending subminimum wage.
Part of the bill’s successful passage included an amendment to combine S.533 with the Employment First Initiative Act ( H.3244). “Currently, South Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates for people with disabilities. Dated policies and lack of coordination have withheld opportunities for individuals with disabilities to succeed in the workforce. The Employment First Initiative Act will help our state agencies become model employers by changing policies and procedures and increasing collaboration. Combining the Employment First Initiative Act with the bill to end subminimum wage promotes inclusive employment for individuals with disabilities in South Carolina,” says Kimberly Tissot, president, and CEO of the disability non-profit Able South Carolina.
South Carolina’s bill prioritizes the stability of individuals with disabilities who are currently subject to subminimum wage by developing a task force to create a two-year transition plan to phase out subminimum wage by August 1, 2024, ensuring that those currently working under subminimum wage can successfully transition to other types of employment. In 2021, 1,800 people with disabilities were recorded as making less than the minimum wage in South Carolina, through these programs.
In reaction to the bill’s passage, Tissot shared, “Ending subminimum wage is finally employment justice for people with disabilities! We are thrilled by the result, ensuring that people with disabilities are valued and equal members of South Carolina’s competitive workforce. We applaud the leadership of Senator Katrina Shealy, Senator Tom Davis, Representative Neal Collins, and Representative Bill Sandifer for ensuring overwhelming support in the General Assembly. We commend South Carolina’s lawmakers for supporting the rights of the 1,216,011 people with disabilities in our state. Today marks a new future for people with disabilities in South Carolina.”
S.533 was continuously supported by disability-led and supported organizations in South Carolina, including Able South Carolina, Walton Options, AccessAbility, Disability Rights South Carolina, The Association of People Supporting Employment First, Winthrop Think College, Thrive Upstate, The Charles Lea Center, College of Charleston Reach Program, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation, U of SC Carolina LIFE, U of SC College of Education, Family Connection of SC, Coastal Carolina LIFE, SOS Care, SC Commission for the Blind, SC Developmental Disabilities Council, and The Arc of South Carolina.