National Council on Disability applauds U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ call to repeal 14(c) subminimum wages

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For Immediate Release

Sept. 17, 2020                                     

WASHINGTON — The National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent federal agency that first called for the elimination of subminimum wages for people with disabilities in 2012 – today applauds the leadership of another independent federal agency for doing the same.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), in a new report, has recommended the repeal of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The use of 14(c) certificates have allowed for employees with disabilities to be paid below the minimum wage, sometimes pennies an hour.

“NCD enthusiastically commends Chair [Catherine E.] Lhamon and her fellow Commissioners for calling for the repeal of Section 14(c) subminimum wages after thorough research into the topic,” said NCD Chairman Neil Romano.

USCCR’s daylong briefing in November 2019 focused on subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Chairman Romano testified before the Commission, conveying NCD’s research findings and recommendations on subminimum wages.    

"We are extremely pleased that USCCR will be joining with NCD in calling for the elimination of Section 14(c) of the 'Fair' Labor Standards Act," said Chairman Romano. “This piece of outdated legislation has cast countless Americans with disabilities into gulags of indifference based on bias and lack of belief in the equality of all humankind -- indifferent to the progress of civil rights in our country over the past 80 years, unmoved by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and seemingly immune to the belief that 'All men are created equal.'"

Based on research including expert testimony, site visits, academic and federal literature review, and extensive stakeholder public comment, the Commission’s key recommendations included the following:

  • Repeal Section 14(c) with a planned phase-out;
  • Expand funding for supported employment services and prioritize capacity building in states transitioning from 14(c) programs;
  • Assign civil rights oversight responsibility and jurisdiction to either the Department of Labor or to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, which should issue an annual report on investigations and findings regarding the 14(c) program;
  • Require more stringent reporting and accountability for 14(c) certificate holders during the phase out; and
  • Increase enforcement of the Olmstead integration mandate to determine whether state systems are inappropriately relying on providers using 14(c) certificates to provide non-integrated employment in violation of Olmstead.

NCD first issued advice to Congress for the elimination of 14(c) subminimum wages in its 2012 Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment report. NCD expanded its findings and recommendations on the topic in 2018 in its From the New Deal to the Real Deal report, which called for to phased elimination of 14(c) and capacity building for states as they change work models.

USCCR’s report, Subminimum Wages: Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities is available at: www.usccr.gov.

About U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957, USCCR is the only independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights and reporting annually on federal civil rights enforcement.

About the National Council on Disability (NCD): First established as a small advisory Council within the Department of Education in 1978, NCD became an independent federal agency in 1984. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Since the ADA became law in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in crafting policy solutions, and in advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policies, programs, and practices.

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