Employment: Two Employment Bills Introduced in the Senate

On January 29, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced two bills related to employment for people with disabilities. The first bill, the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (S.260), will phase out 14(c) subminimum wage certificates over six years and provides grants for technical assistance and provider transformation.

The second, the Disability Employment Incentives Act (S.255), increases three tax credits for employers. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides incentives for businesses that hire people referred by vocational rehabilitation, or who are on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance, would be increased from $2,400 to $5,000. The Disability Access Expenditures Tax Credit will be increased from $5,000 to $10,000. The Architectural and Transportation Barrier Tax Credit will be increased from $15,000 to $30,000.

Fair Labor Standards Act/Subminimum Wage

Recently, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor posted a PowerPoint presentation which provides a general overview of section 14(c) and requirements for certificate holders.  This presentation is accessible by the public at http://www.dol.gov/whd/sec14c/14c-presentation.ppt.  For additional guidance on section 14(c), please see the Wage and Hour Division webpage.

Notice of Proposed Rule Making

Last week, the anticipated Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), as related to implementation of the changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program contained in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, were posted in the Federal Register. Two different NPRMs apply to the VR program, the first related to program changes in several areas, can be accessed here. The second, related to State Supported Employment Services Program, and Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wage can be found here. Public comments are due June 15, 2015. Comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by US Postal Service to: Janet LaBreck, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., Room 5086 Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2800.

Executive Order Sets Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors; Includes People with Disabilities Employed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act

Last week, the President signed an Executive Order establishing a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for federal contractors and subcontractors. The Executive Order covers service and construction contracts and subcontracts (products are not covered), effective January 1, 2015. The wage rate will apply to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts, and will be indexed annually for inflation.  As stated by the White House, “Under current law, workers whose productivity is affected because of their disabilities may be paid less than the wage paid to others doing the same job under certain specialized certificate programs. Under this Executive Order, all individuals working under service or concessions contracts with the federal government will be covered by the same $10.10 per hour minimum wage protections.” To read The Arc’s statement, visit our blog.

National Council on Disability Report on Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment

The National Council on Disability (NCD) has issued a report, Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment. The report is the result of a review over the last year by NCD of the use of the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities, authorized under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In its report, NCD recommends phasing out the subminimum wage and makes other policy recommendations designed to increase opportunities for integrated employment at or above the minimum wage for people with disabilities. NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.

Bill to phase out special wage certificates introduced

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3086, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011. The bill seeks to immediately end issuance of new special wage certificates for workers with disabilities under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to phase out existing certificates over a 3 year period. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has scheduled no action on the bill.  There is no companion bill in the Senate.