INSTITUTE INDEX: Ending subminimum wages for workers with disabilities

In 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report urging Congress to repeal a provision of federal law allowing payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities, calling it "antiquated as it was enacted prior to our nation's civil rights laws." (Photo by the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights via Flickr.)

Section of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) that still allows employers — including federal contractors — to pay a subminimum wage for workers with disabilities "for the job being performed," which can include blindness, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, mental illness, and addiction to drugs or alcohol: 14(c)

Current federal minimum hourly wage for U.S. workers who don't have disabilities for the job being performed: $7.25

Average hourly wage for a person working under a 14(c) certificate between 2017 and 2018: $3.34

Year in which the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report urging Congress to repeal FLSA's subminimum wage provision, calling it "antiquated as it was enacted prior to our nation's civil rights laws": 2020

Number of employers who currently have, or have applied for, a 14(c) certificate: about 1,200

Estimated number of U.S. workers being paid subminimum wages under the 14(c) program: 40,000 to 100,000

Of all the cases alleging violations of the FLSA's 14(c) provision, percent where abuse or other harm have been found, according the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: over 80

As of the beginning of 2022, number of states that had eliminated, phased out, or modified the authority of at least some employers to pay subminimum wages to people with disabilities: 14

Number of those states that are in the South: 1*

Year in which the Texas legislature passed legislation requiring its Workforce Commission to help community rehabilitation programs taking part in its State Use initiative, which subsidizes jobs for disabled people, develop plans for increasing wages to the federal minimum: 2019

Date on which those plans are supposed to be in place: 9/1/2022

Date on which Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed into law a measure that bans subminimum wages for people with disabilities in that state: 4/14/2022

Date on which the South Carolina legislature passed a resolution to set up a task force that will draw up a plan to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities: 5/12/2022

Date on which the U.S. Department of Education announced funding for a historic demonstration project to move disabled workers out of subminimum wage jobs — the first federal investment in ending the subminimum wage: 3/18/2022

Number of House cosponsors of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (H.R. 2373), which Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington introduced last April to phase out subminimum wages for people with disabilities, and which remains stalled in committee: 49

* Texas.

(Click on figure to go to source.)