Senators Seek Data on Subminimum Wage for Disabled Workers

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By Christine Pulfrey

Seven U.S. senators asked Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to respond to 11 questions requesting information about a waiver program that employers may use to hire and pay disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage.

The senators sent a letter April 23 to Acosta asking that he clarify Labor Department oversight and enforcement of employers that use 14(c) waivers to pay the workers in the program. The senators asked that Acosta provide data by May 11.

Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the department may issue certificates that let eligible employers pay disabled workers a subminimum wage, but the senators expressed concern in their letter that the certificate program allows disability-based worker discrimination and sets low expectations for such workers.

How many disabled workers are employed under the more than 1,700 certificates held by employers as of January 2018 or what those workers’ pay rates are is not publicly known, the letter said, noting that the waivers should be phased out.

The senators who signed the letter were Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Margaret Hassan (D-N.H.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Christine Pulfrey in Washington at cpulfrey@bloombergtax.com. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Baer at mbaer@bloombergtax.com.

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