New push underway to eradicate subminimum wage

Government investigators say that a lack of resources is one of the main reasons people with disabilities continue to work for less than minimum wage. Now, some lawmakers want to change that.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this month would phase out what’s known as subminimum wage over five years and provide the means to support people with disabilities in the transition to competitive, integrated employment.

The legislation introduced by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., seeks to do away with a federal provision dating back to 1938 that allows employers to obtain special 14(c) certificates from the Department of Labor authorizing them to pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

“Greater than 30 years after the passage of the People with Disabilities Act, our nation’s preeminent wage and hour regulation nonetheless denies equal alternative for much too many staff with disabilities. It’s long-gone time for Congress to part out the subminimum wage for staff with disabilities and increase entry to fulfilling employment and financial self-sufficiency,” Scott stated.

The measure known as the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, H.R. 2373, would halt the issuance of any new 14(c) certificates immediately and require that employees working under existing certificates be paid at least minimum wage within five years. The legislation would also create grant programs to help 14(c) certificate holders transition to supporting workers with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment. And, the lawmakers said their proposal provides for the “inclusive wraparound services that some individuals with disabilities will need when subminimum wages are phased out.”