WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 22, 2021)—On November 18, 2021, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Transformation to Competitive, Integrated Employment Act in the Senate as S. 3238. A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) as HR. 2373. This legislation provides states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with the resources to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive, integrated employment. It also requires that subminimum wages, currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, be phased out.

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is strongly committed to competitive, integrated employment in the community for people with disabilities, and believes this workforce to be fully capable of working in typical integrated settings receiving fair and equitable wages for their work. Currently, the legal exception allowing employers to pay lower wages to individuals on the basis of their disability lowers expectations and perpetuates a system of discrimination that stymies individuals’ potential for fulfillment and self-sufficiency. Indeed, in 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for phasing out the 14(c) subminimum wage. The exception should be eliminated. AFB supports this legislation.

As we have stated in the past, we realize people with disabilities earning a subminimum wage may not be best served by eliminating the special certificates issued under 14(c) without appropriate time for preparation and support. Therefore, we agree with these efforts to ensure a gradual phase-out of the certificates, financial support to state governments and existing certificate holders, and the provision of technical assistance and data collection.

This multi-tiered approach will assist employees with disabilities to enter competitive, integrated employment while receiving the necessary wraparound supports to complete their transition and minimize the impact of the phase-out on those businesses and community programs that have provided employment through subminimum wages. By focusing on integrated employment as well as wage parity, these grants should encourage new innovations in employment and service delivery in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

“We commend Members of Congress Scott, McMorris Rodgers, Casey, and Daines for their commitment to equitable employment for people with disabilities, including and especially those who are blind or have low vision,” said Kirk Adams, Ph.D., AFB president and CEO. “We are likewise pleased that the Build Back Better Act, as passed by the House on November 19, includes portions of this transformative legislation and $300 million in funding to transition providers to a competitive, integrated employment model. We look forward to progress on this important civil rights issue.”

Addition Information:

House Bill: www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2373/text
House Fact Sheet: https://edlabor.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2021-04-05%20TCIEA%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
Senate Bill: www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/3238/
Senate One-Pager: www.casey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/one_pager_tciea.pdf

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About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org