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.