U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today introduced his bipartisan, bicameral bill to support Montanans with disabilities the workforce. Daines’ bill, the “Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act” or TCIEA, would end the discriminatory practice of paying individuals with disabilities below minimum wage. Today, tens of thousands of people with disabilities are being paid less than the minimum wage – most of these workers have intellectual or developmental disabilities – and some can be paid as little as a few cents an hour.
“Montanans with disabilities contribute to our communities and their work is valuable—they should never be paid below minimum wage. There is dignity and hope in work, so we should be doing all we can to expand opportunity and ensure fair pay to Montanans with disabilities in the workforce,” Daines said.
Daines introduced the “Transformation to Competitive Employment Act” with Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) in the Senate and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) in the House of Representatives.
Read the bill text here.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report detailing the Department of Labor’s (DOL) oversight of the 14(c) certificate program, which allows employers to pay subminimum wages to workers with disabilities. The report finds that between 2012 and 2021, DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) identified over $15 million in unpaid back wages owed to more than 73,500 14(c) employees due to employers’ failure to fairly compensate employees.
The GAO report found that the number of employers paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities has decreased from 3,100 in 2010 to almost 1,600 in 2019, while more people with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, participate in the labor market than ever before.
GAO also found that WHD’s processing times for 14(c) certificate applications and renewals varied widely, ranging from 2 days to over 2 years. Long processing times allow employers with expired certificates to continue operations without meeting program requirements. Some of these requirements include paying fair commensurate wages to workers and providing required career counseling about employment options outside of subminimum wage work, activities that can help people with disabilities earning subminimum wages to transition to competitive, integrated employment.
GAO outlined three recommendations to WHD to ensure better oversight of the 14(c) certificate program:
- WHD should set and track timeliness goals for intermediate steps and overall duration for processing 14(c) applications.
- WHD should externally communicate its goals for timely 14(c) application processing to employers and stakeholders.
- WHD should solicit feedback from 14(c) employers regarding the online application and take steps to address limitations and improve the overall timeliness of application processing.
Read the GAO report here link.
Contact: Matt Lloyd, Rachel Dumke, Blake Kernen