WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Representative Bobby Scott (VA-03), chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, introduced the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act(H.R. 2373) to provide states and employers with the resources to transition workers with disabilities into fully integrated and competitive jobs while phasing out the subminimum wage for individuals with disabilities.
Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers can apply for special certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. There is no minimum floor for the hourly wage that an employer can pay an individual with a disability under these certificates.
In 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for phasing out the 14(c) subminimum wage, finding that it has “limited people with disabilities participating in the program from realizing their full potential while allowing providers and associated businesses to profit from their labor.” Research also confirms that, with competitive employment, workers with disabilities are better able to achieve financial independence and spend time engaging in their community.
While seven states have either phased out workshops that pay subminimum wages or are in the process of doing so, a recent GAO report underscores that many employers and workers with disabilities do not have the appropriate resources or services to transition to competitive integrated employment. The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act specifically provides states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with resources and technical assistance to help workers with disabilities transition away from sheltered workshops and into community employment settings.
“More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our nation’s preeminent wage and hour law still denies equal opportunity for far too many workers with disabilities. It is long past time for Congress to phase out the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and expand access to fulfilling employment and economic self-sufficiency,” said Chairman Scott. “By fostering collaboration between employers and services providers, this bipartisan legislation makes clear that it is not only possible, but beneficial to invest in fully integrated and competitive jobs for people with disabilities. We must take this next step to ensure that every worker can succeed in the workplace and earn a fair wage.”
“Disability employment is the next policy frontier to empower people with disabilities to live full and independent lives,” said Ranking Member Rodgers. “A job is so much more than just a paycheck, it’s what gives us dignity, purpose, and the opportunity for a better life. I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure more people – who are ready, willing, and able to work – find employment.
The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act:
- Creates a competitive state grant program to assist states to transition all 14(c) certificate holders to models that support competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. States will be able to apply for these transformation grants and must establish an advisory committee of key stakeholders, including employers, organizations specializing in employment for individuals with disabilities, Medicaid agencies, AbilityOne contractors, individuals with disabilities and their families, and vocational rehabilitation agencies. States that successfully complete a grant will be eligible for a 25% increase in the allotment for supported employment for individuals with the most significant disabilities.
- Creates a competitive grant program for current 14(c) certificate holders that are located in states that do not apply for the state grant, to transition their business models to support individuals with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment.
- Immediately freezes the issuance of any new 14(c) certificates by DOL and phases out the use of existing 14(c) certificates over 5 years until employees are paid at least the federal minimum wage.
- Establishes a technical assistance (TA) center to support all entities, even those not receiving the transformation grants, to transition to competitive integrated employment. The TA center, which will be funded by DOL, is tasked with disseminating information about best practices, lessons learned, and models for transition to all entities transitioning to competitive, integrated employment.
- Requires reporting and evaluation on the progress of creating and expanding the service delivery structure to support workers with disabilities in competitive integrated settings and the inclusive wraparound services they receive when not working. States and 14(c) certificate holders will also be required to report on their grant activities, evaluate changes in employment for individuals with disabilities, report average wage information, and evaluate employer actions taken to comply with the phase out of 14(c) and transformation grants.
For the bill text of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, click here.
For a fact sheet on the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, click here.
For a section-by-section of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, click here.
Supporting Organizations: Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), Autism Society, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Down Syndrome Society, National Federation of the Blind (NFB), National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and TASH, Inc.