The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) strongly opposes the continued use and production of certificates issued under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Founded in 1979 as a unique alliance of adults with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, DREDF advances the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development. We address employment, housing, access to government services and benefits, transportation, higher education, architectural access, public accommodations, and education.
DREDF focuses on civil rights issues that promote integration of people with disabilities into the mainstream of society. One-third of our work aims to protect and advance the rights of students with disabilities. We seek to ensure disabled students are able to live in the community, receive a free and appropriate public education, and attend integrated schools. Disabled students must also be provided a just and equitable future. Removal of attitudinal barriers, the key to removal of all other barriers, can only be achieved through the exposure that integration brings. The vast majority of 14(c) certificate holders are sheltered workshops.
In addition, payment of subminimum wages creates an unnecessary and discriminatory barrier to participating in and benefiting from society. According to a 2018 National Council on Disability report, From the New Deal to the Real Deal, more than 320,000 disabled workers are legally paid subminimum wages. As long as this antiquated law remains, the message to young people is clear – your work, your interests, and your potential are not valued. Paying people lower wages on the basis of their disability is discrimination and contributes to lower rates of poverty. All adults with disabilities should be given the opportunity to acquire competitive integrated employment for a living wage.
Three major civil rights statutes, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have been enacted which recognize that people with disabilities face discrimination and are entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in society to the same extent that others take for granted. As with all civil rights statutes, the federal government has a critical role to ensure that these laws are enforced. DREDF urges the Office of Disability Employment Policy to reaffirm the civil rights advances for people with disabilities and ensure fair and equal pay.