Labor Department Seeks Input On Subminimum Wage
Amid ongoing debate about whether employers should be able to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage, federal officials are asking the public to weigh in.
The U.S. Department of Labor says it wants to hear about “ideas, individual stories and personal experiences” related to subminimum wage employment.
Under current law, employers can obtain what are known as 14(c) certificates from the Labor Department, which allow them to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Employees who are paid at a lower rate are supposed to be compensated based upon their productivity level compared to that of someone without a disability.
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The agency’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is holding what it’s calling a national online dialogue to solicit feedback on the program.
“The goal of this online dialogue is to capture perspectives about section 14(c) based on individual input from those ‘on the ground,'” the Labor Department said.
Comments and ideas collected through a special website will be summarized to provide an overview of what’s happening across the country, officials indicated.
The Labor Department said that it’s hoping to hear from people with disabilities, their families, service providers, disability groups, employers, researchers and other stakeholders.
Esme Grewal, vice president of government relations at the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, said that representatives of several disability organizations spoke to Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta earlier this year about concerns related to 14(c) certificates.
Grewal said her group was not involved in the meeting. But, she said Labor Department officials relayed that Acosta told advocates he could not change how things are currently done, but might be able to influence lawmakers on the issue once listening sessions take place.
Acosta doubled down on that point when he testified before Congress earlier this month.
“We are seeing the number of 14(c) certificates going down although any change in the 14(c) program would have to come from Congress,” Acosta told members of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Proposed legislation known as the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act would require the Labor Department to stop issuing 14(c) certificates and phase out existing certificates within six years. The measure has bipartisan support in Congress, but has yet to move forward since being introduced earlier this year.
The Labor Department’s online dialogue is open through June 14.
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