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POG Assists Other States on Subminimum Wage

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., held a policy briefing in Washington, D.C., on June 22 to build congressional support for competitive, integrated employment and the elimination of 14(c) certificates.

The certificates are granted by the U.S. Department of Labor under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and authorize employers to pay employees with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. Harper is the lead sponsor of the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act, which, if enacted, would phase out the use of 14(c) certificates.

In 2016, Maryland passed the Ken Capone Equal Employment Act (EEA), which prevents employers from applying for or renewing 14(c) certificates, and transitions individuals from segregated sheltered workshops to competitive, integrated employment. At the June 22 briefing, panelists Ken Capone, Neil Romano and Linda Scott advocated for all states to adopt laws similar to the EEA.

Neil Romano, left, of the National Council on Disability, with People On the Go's Ken Capone

“I cannot put into words what an honor it is to have my name on this important piece of legislation for people with developmental disabilities in Maryland,” said Capone, public policy director for People on the Go Maryland, an MCDD partner.

“We based the model on the one we used to transition people from an institution into the community,” he added. “Some people might not want to work, or they may want to retire; for those people, we need to make sure that each person’s individualized plan reflects what a meaningful day would look like” for him or her.

Romano, a member of the National Council on Disability and former assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, addressed the topic of sub-minimum wages in his remarks. Sub-minimum wages based on disability, he said, are “clearly a human rights issue.”

And, Scott spoke of how her daughter’s opportunity to pursue an equally-paid position at a community flower shop allowed her to develop social skills, earn a paycheck and become more independent.

All three panelists stressed that integrated employment and equal wages improve not only the lives of individuals but also business productivity. Opponents of the EEA argue that raising wages for workers with disabilities could mean that employers might be less likely to hire them or that employers will not be able to hire as many employees. Congressional staff members present at the briefing voiced concerns about the implementation of the law and funding for the transition.

MCDD Newsletter 2017: Issue Three