PublicSource used information that Pennsylvania employers submitted in applications to the U.S. Department of Labor seeking the authority to pay below minimum wage to workers with disabilities. It took a total of seven months for the department to hand over the documents. From 1,600 pages of paper documents, we built a database of the employers and the average hourly earnings and jobs of the individual workers they employ under the provision.

In some cases, the department was unable to provide the full application. The organizations also self-report, which results in different interpretations of how to fill out the applications. There are few checks on the integrity of that information.

Further, the number of disabled workers earning below minimum wage constantly fluctuates. Contracts for certain work may end, or the workers could be experiencing health issues or other obligations that take them away from the work.

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Halle is executive director, editor-in-chief of PublicSource. She has served as editor-in-chief since May 2022 after seven years as managing editor during which PublicSource won two consecutive international...