AAPD Calls on Department of Labor to End the Practice of Paying Disabled Workers Subminimum Wage

by Jess Davidson | For Immediate Release
Contact: [email protected]; Jess Davidson at [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) joined 25 disability organizations and sent a letter to the Department of Labor calling for an end to the practice of paying workers with disabilities. This letter comes as the Department is conducting a review of the future viability of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows employers to pay disabled people less than minimum wage.  AAPD informed the Department that it fully supports ending the use of 14(c) and the practice of paying disabled workers subminimum wages. You can read the letter here. 

New research from the Government Accountability Office shows that  the average wage of a person with a disability working under a 14(c) certificate was less than $3.50  per hour, less than half of the federal minimum wage.  Research from U.S. Commission on Civil Rights  also shows that Section 14(c) has often resulted in the segregation of disabled people into sheltered workshops, despite the fact that integrated employment and community settings are more beneficial and productive for all workers.

“The disability rights community is united on this issue.  We believe that the time has come for disabled American workers to work with dignity and be paid the same standard wages that all other Americans are entitled to.  The practice of paying disabled Americans subminimum wages is unfair, unjust, and only further discriminates against our community that faces so many challenges already in our daily lives,” said Maria Town, AAPD President and CEO.  “People with disabilities deserve to be paid a fair wage regardless of their work environment.  This practice has endured for 90 years.  It’s time for it to end.”

AAPD is working with a number of other organizations and allies across the country to highlight the practice of paying disabled workers subminimum wages.  AAPD recently launched a petition dedicated to highlighting the unfairness of Section 14(c).  Find out more about the campaign at EndSubminimumWage.org.

Relevant Issue Facts and Statistics: 

  • Many states have already eliminated subminimum wage: Fifteen  states have passed legislation eliminating subminimum wage; six states introduced legislation eliminating subminimum wage within their chambers. Colorado recently phased out use of subminimum wage for workers with disabilities two years before its planned deadline.   
  • Transitioning to competitive integrated employment for all workers is possible: Between 2019 and 2022, the number of workers employed under 14(c) declined by almost half – decreasing from 120,000 workers in 2019 to 67,000 workers in 2022, with many workers now employed in integrated settings earning competitive wages.
  • Workers with disabilities deserve equal pay for equal work. As of 2019, a majority of 14(c) employees earned less than 3.40 an hour$53.44 per week, and only $213.76 per month. A large percentage of 14(c) disabled employees earned less than a dollar an hour.