All around the country, in both rural and urban settings, disabled Americans are working for less than minimum wage. But new legislation introduced in the House would right this wrong, increasing incomes and earning potential for thousands of disabled Americans who are doing their best to earn a decent, living wage.
Michelle Diament of Disability Scoop has reported 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.”
Proposed by Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the bill “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.”
“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,” Scott said. “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.”
The “Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, H.R. 2373” bill would implement a number of crucial actions endorsed by many disability advocates. First, it would halt the issuance of any new 14(c) certificates. It would also require that companies employing individuals 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,” Diament reported, adding that proposal would also account for the “inclusive wraparound services that some individuals with disabilities will need when subminimum wages are phased out.”
The introduction of the bill follows the release of a new report by the Government Accountability Office, which attempted to detail many of the barriers that people with disabilities are forced to confront when they attempt to move away from subminimum wage work.
“The report, which is based on a research review and interviews with experts and officials across five states, identifies 32 factors that ‘help or hinder’ the transition from subminimum wage jobs to competitive, integrated employment,” Diament reported. “Among the issues cited are family concerns about individuals maintaining their federal benefits, the level of resources to help 14(c) certificate holders provide services like job coaching to support competitive employment, state policies and local factors like the availability of transportation.”
In addition to the House bill from Scott and Rodgers, a number of other efforts to end the subminimum wage are currently floating around the nation’s capital. The “Raise the Wage Act” that is attempting to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for everyone would also eliminate the subminimum wage for workers like waiters in the service industry. And President Biden’s proposed “American Jobs Plan” also includes language that would do away with subminimum wage law.
Diament reported that, as of October 2020, there are more than 1,200 different employers currently operating across the U.S. that have a 14(c) certificate and the vast majority of these companies pay their workers a subminimum wage.