Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Section 64a00: Introduction
- Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has contained provisions to employ workers with disabilities at special minimum wages (SMWs) since it was enacted in 1938. An SMW is a wage paid a worker with a disability that is commensurate with that worker's individual productivity as compared to the wage and productivity of experienced workers who do not have disabilities performing essentially the same type, quality, and quantity of work in the vicinity where the worker with a disability is employed. The commensurate wage is always a special minimum wage, i.e., a wage below that required by section 6(a) (see Field Operations Handbook (FOH) 64g05) or below the rate required by the Service Contract Act (SCA) wage determination where applicable.
- Employers with the appropriate certificates may pay workers with disabilities a commensurate wage (see FOH 64g05). This minimum wage exemption exists because people with disabilities may not be able to compete successfully with workers who do not have disabilities for jobs paying the minimum wage. The main objective of the exemption was, and remains, to encourage employment opportunities for workers whose earning or productive capacities have been diminished by their disability. The payment of SMWs to workers with disabilities is codified at section 14(c) of the FLSA. This section was last amended on October 16, 1986. Regulations 29 CFR Part 525, Employment of Workers with Disabilities Under Special Certificates, set forth the conditions and terms governing the employment of workers with disabilities at SMWs.
- It is the policy of the Wage and Hour Division (WH) to carry out a vigorous, consistent, and effective enforcement program with respect to employment of workers with disabilities under section 14(c). This policy is essential because many of the workers with disabilities paid at SMWs have little knowledge of their rights under the various Acts enforced by Wage Hour or may be unable to exercise them. In addition to WH activities to protect workers with disabilities, there are also various interested parties that act on behalf of the workers with disabilities and/or the work centers that employ them. Because the Investigator (INV) may have contact with these groups, a few of the more prominent ones are listed in the glossary near the end of this chapter. Although some of these groups and consulting agencies have prepared their own compliance manuals and have been provided feedback by WH, none of their documents has been approved by WH and none provides a good faith defense in case violations are disclosed.
- Unless specifically noted, employers who employ workers with disabilities are subject to the same FLSA/SCA/Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) rules of coverage, employment relationship, exemptions, child labor restrictions, and principles regarding such things as hours worked and record keeping as those who employ workers who do not have disabilities.