Comment Today to Support Equal Pay for People with Disabilities!
This week the Department of Labor announced its new website, “the Section 14(c) National Online Dialogue.” The purpose of the website is to collect comments from the public about the impact of paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers with 14(c) certificates can legally pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, often times pennies on the dollar. Section 14(c) certificates are typically used in “sheltered workshops,” where people with disabilities are segregated from the broader community. The vast majority of disability advocates view Section 14(c) (created in 1938) as outdated, discriminatory, and reinforcing a life of poverty, segregation, and dependency on public support for people with disabilities. It is critical that you make your voice heard!
Input from people with disabilities, families, employment providers and employers is important. Share your perspective online here before Friday, June 14th.
Ideas to include in your comments are:
- If you are a person with a disability or a family member, talk about why a community job at fair pay is important to you/your family. Think about relationships with co-workers, how you/your family member have grown in your job, and opportunities to go into the broader community. If you/your family member have ever been paid subminimum wages, talk about how that made you feel and about your transition from sheltered work to CIE.
- If you are an employment provider, talk about how you support people with disabilities in competitive integrated employment. If you are a provider who has transitioned away from using 14(c) certificates, talk about that experience.
- If you are an employer, talk about your experience with employees with disabilities. Think about their contributions to your workplace and how you have been able to ensure their success.
- If you are an advocate familiar with disability employment trends in your state, share information about that progress. Think about what policies have advanced CIE and how your state may be moving away from using sheltered workshops.
Disability advocates have made significant progress towards eliminating Section 14(c) and establishing the legal right of people with disabilities to be paid the same as everyone else. In 2014, Congress passed the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which made competitive integrated employment (CIE) a priority, limited the use of subminimum wages for youth with disabilities, and required people currently being paid subminimum wages to be given other employment options. In 2016, the Federal Advisory Committee for Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities recommended to Congress and the Labor Secretary that Section 14(c) be phased-out, together with capacity building for competitive integrated employment. In 2019, Congress introduced bipartisan legislation, the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, to phase-out 14(c) and help providers transform their models to CIE. Numerous states have already prohibited the use of subminimum wages, and other states are currently considering legislation. It is critical that we urge the Department of Labor to continue the progress towards ending this outdated and discriminatory practice.
Remember, you only have until June 21st to make your voice heard here!