subminimumwages@usccr.gov – We support Section 14(c) accommodations

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is an ACCOMMODATION  – an accommodation for those with the most significant intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Section 14(c) is an accommodation that can be used by the employees choice in order to gain skills and maintain employment.

The purpose of Section 14(c) is to prevent curtailment of employment opportunities for those who may be unable to work in other settings.  Employment under Section 14(c) is not the first choice offered to people but it needs to be one of the alternative routes to training and employment for those who may need more time or hands-on support to learn a skill.

We all have a right to work  – many of us may need some sort of accommodation, if even temporary, at some time in our life, in order to maintain employment.  Why should those with significant disabilities not have that right too with Section 14(c) accommodation?

One of the major problems that has been agreed upon is that there has not been enough information for people to know what is even going on – who is working, where they are working, what they are doing or what they are earning.  Without this information, including that for those working in integrated employment settings,  how can we evaluate what has already occurred?  We need time to assess what has happened in areas that have eliminated choices and discover if those affected are satisfied with the changes.

Have these people been able to have equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency as they may have been promised by those who took their choices away?

The Wage and Hour Division  (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) has recently taken steps to modernize its oversight and enforcement of the 14(c) program.  The process is now electronic and there is great opportunity to collect, aggregate, and analyze information which was not possible when paper applications were being used. WHD has already produced improvements with recent investigations and back wages being repaid to the employees.

We say “take a step back” and take time to gather information and evaluate.   We need to allow the improved oversight with investigational teams time to weed out the abusers of a system before we eliminate another accommodation and impose more restrictions for this population.

 

email subminimumwages@usccr.gov, with “I Support 14c” in the subject line. The e-mail may also be copied to federal legislators at www.usa.gov/elected-officials,

United States Commission on Civil Rights

USCCR Briefing Agenda – December 15, 2019

 

Congratulations, Thomas!

Thomas was awarded a badge at work today for his 4 years of employment at Lowe’s Home Improvement!  He was so happy.  He loves his job, his co-workers, job coaches and customers.  We often run into his customers when we are out and about in the community doing other things and he gets so excited about seeing them!

 

 

Thomas was able to secure this job through the King County School 2 Work program.  They had a pilot program several years ago in which they worked with students that would have been considered the more “difficult to place” in community jobs.  I’m so glad to say that we were able to appeal to allow Thomas to participate in the program.  Thomas was also the only one in his group to have a job before they “graduated.”  While he still works for the same company, the job has changed as he has gained skills and they have discovered the great abilities he has which he has put to good use there.

Supported employment (or Community Integrated Employment – CIE) is one option that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can choose to utilize if they want to try to work.  Supported employment is very individualized and may take many months to find a job that is the right fit for the person .   Job supports are also individualized – some people need 1:1 support throughout their working experience and others may just need a job coach to check in once a week to once a month.

Supported employment is ideal for Thomas.  He also lives in supported living so he has private transportation to and from work each morning for his hand-to-hand transfer from care-giving staff to job coach.  Given that Thomas also has medical treatments that he needs 3 x week, his care-giving staff then pick him up from work and take him to his doctor appointments.  This makes a full morning for Thomas – he’s ready for lunch by the time he gets back home.

Thomas does earn a bit above minimum wage in his job which is paid by his employer.  The funds for this are funneled from the Federal/State government through the county which pays the vendors for the job supports.  With Thomas typically working 7-9 hours a week, he works more hours than average for someone with his support needs.

While this is a great choice for Thomas, it is not for everyone.  We need to keep alternative choices and opportunities available for those with differing needs and skills.  For instance, there is group supported employment which many people prefer.  Often times the employees in these jobs may make less than minimum wage with a special certificate issues from the state (they are typically called 14 c certificates) Many people prefer these jobs since they are with their friends and enjoy the group experience too.

Our state has already abolished all pre-vocational types of jobs but in other states these may still be a choice.  We need to keep these alternative choices available for those who choose this type of job training.  We can’t talk about person centered planning and then remove choices.

I need to add that is it only due to the “village” that supports Thomas that he is able to be so successful in his achievements:  His village is his family and friends, Provail (employment vendor), Alpha Supported Living (supported living agency) in addition to his co-workers at Lowe’s.