Labor Department Weighs Future Of Subminimum Wage For Workers With Disabilities
With big changes under consideration, federal officials want to hear from workers with disabilities about their experiences with a program that allows employers to pay them less than minimum wage.
The U.S. Department of Labor is launching a “series of stakeholder engagement sessions” as it embarks on a “comprehensive review” of what’s known as the Section 14(c) program.
The program, authorized under a law that dates back to the 1930s, allows businesses to receive special 14(c) certificates from the Labor Department permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.
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Federal officials have been under pressure in recent years to do away with the subminimum wage employment model, which can leave workers with disabilities earning as little as pennies per hour.
Late last month, the agency indicated that it would initiate a review of the program, a move requested by disability advocates, the Government Accountability Office, the National Council on Disability, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Labor Department’s Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment, among others, according to Taryn M. Williams, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.
The Labor Department has not detailed exactly what the review will involve, how long it will take or what the outcome may be, but with the first listening session scheduled this week, the agency is signaling that work is underway.
“During the session, we welcome your input on important areas of focus for reviewing the 14(c) program, experiences with options for competitive integrated employment (CIE), lessons from states that have expanded CIE and/or prohibited subminimum wages, impacts of potentially ceasing to issue 14(c) certificates in the future, and any related issues,” the Labor Department said. “The department is interested in hearing the experiences of workers with disabilities, so we encourage worker advocates to include these examples in their remarks or to invite workers with disabilities to come share their stories directly.”
The first stakeholder engagement session will be held virtually this Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. ET and is open to the public, but registration is required no later than Wednesday.
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