TRANSFORMATION TO COMPETITIVE EMPLOYMENT ACT (H.R. 873/ S. 260)
NDSS supports the passage of the Transition to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/ S. 260). This legislation will help pave the way for equality in the workplace for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, many of who work in settings that fail to prepare them for integrated employment in the mainstream economy. By phasing out the special wage certificates, this legislation will give people with disabilities access to the work and training environments that will allow them to acquire meaningful skills and better employment opportunities.
The phase-out period includes a systematic approach to expand capacity for competitive integrated employment, particularly for people transitioning out of sheltered workshops. Specifically, the bill authorizes $300 million for two grant programs supporting competitive, integrated employment and a technical assistance center. One grant program will help states transition the business models of 14(c) certificate holders. The second will help current 14(c) certificate holders located in states that do not apply for the state grants to transition their business models. The technical assistance center will support all entities phasing out 14(c) to disseminate best practices and lessons learned on the transition from subminimum wage to competitive employment.
NDSS is working at the state level to pass bills to phase out the payment of subminimum wage under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. States that have taken steps to guarantee a minimum wage to workers with disabilities include:
- Alaska eliminated subminimum wage through a regulatory change that went into effect on February 16, 2018.
- Maryland – HB 420 / SB 417 became law in May 2016 phasing out special wage certificates that allow employers to pay disabled workers according to productivity rather than hours worked. This law will affect all 36 of Maryland’s “sheltered workshops” (nonprofit organizations that hire people with disabilities and pay them below-minimum-wage to perform basic tasks).
- New Hampshire – SB 47 passed in May 2015 banning employers from paying workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage, with a few exceptions including some training programs and family-owned businesses.
- Vermont – A leader in this area, Vermont began moving toward integrated employment for people with disabilities in the early 1980s with a partnership between the University of Vermont and state agencies. Vermont closed its last sheltered workshop in 2002.
- The city of Seattle, WA passed CB 119220, an ordinance that removed the authority to pay people with disabilities subminimum wage. The state of Washington still allows subminimum wage statewide.
- The city of Reno, NV has passed resolution D. 1, which prohibits the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.
- Texas (SB 753) passed legislation in 2019.
- Oregon (SB 494) passed legislation in 2019 to phase out subminimum wage by 2023.
- King County, WA: In 2019, the Metropolitan King County (WA) County Council prohibited the county and its contractors from paying subminimum wages to employees with disabilities.
- Maine (H.P. 1340) would prevent employers in the state from paying individuals with a disability below the minimum wage.
There is legislation currently pending in the following states:
- Hawaii (HB. 1341) would remove the exclusion that allows individuals with disabilities to be paid below the minimum wage.
- Washington (SB 5753)
NDSS supports the efforts of the US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, to further the Employment First philosophy. Employment First is a framework for systems changes based on the belief that all people, including those with disabilities, should have full access to integrated employment in their community. Click here to read about the Department of Labor’s efforts to encourage and assist states to align their policies, resources and service delivery to enable integrated employment for people with disabilities. See below for a link to a map showing states that have some type of Employment First initiative.