Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act Introduced (H.R. 188)
This month, Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi introduced H.R. 188, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2015. Representative Harper introduced an identical bill in 2013 that gained 97 co-sponsors before dying. The bill aims to phase out special wage certificates issued under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. These special wage certificates allow holders to pay employees with disabilities at subminimum wage rates. Although many of these settings supplement their income with Medicaid funding for “pre-employment” services provided to employees, few workers in these settings actually achieve competitive employment.
The bill would prohibit the Department of Labor from issuing any new certificates and would require all current certificate holders to transition to a competitive integrated employment model within three years. Private for-profit businesses would have one year to transition; public or government entities would have two years; and nonprofit organizations, which comprise 95 percent of all certificate holders, would have three years. Finally, the bill would repeal Section 14(c) to completely eliminate subminimum wage for people with disabilities. States would retain the ability to use Medicaid funding for supported employment and job search services that would help people with significant support needs find competitive integrated employment.