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Sheltered Workshops and Subminimum Wages

In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, including the innovative protection of minimum wage. However, Section 14(c) of the Act included an exemption which allowed some individuals, particularly those with disabilities, to be paid less than minimum wage. Although this provision's initial intention was to encourage the hiring of people with disabilities, often times, workers with disabilities were instead employed in "sheltered workshops." This kept them segregated from their communities and earning sub-minimum wages.

Over 80 years later, Section 14(c) remains an adversity that many people with disabilities face. In 2018, there were about 153,030 United States citizens with disabilities who could be paid less than the minimum wage. Statistics from 2019 show that there are 17 organizations in Nebraska who pay 490 people a subminimum wage under the 14(c) exception.


In November 1019, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) held a public briefing titled "Subminimum Wages: Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities." Now, they are inviting the public to provide written comments to guide a forthcoming report on section 14(c). Submit your comments by December 15, 2019 to or by mail to OCRE/Public Comments, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20425.

Read Disability Rights Nebraska's comments on section 14(c), submitted to the Section 14(c) National Online Dialogue in June 2019. 


“Bottom Dollars” is an hour-long documentary, in 9 separate chapters, that exposes the exploitation of people with disabilities through personal stories and expert interviews. It also presents clear employment alternatives with competitive wages and community inclusion.

If you're interested in addressing this issue specifically within Nebraska, we'd like to hear your stories. As advocates for Nebraskans with disabilities, we invite you to join us in our efforts to put an end to subminimum wage and sheltered workshops in our state. Feel free to submit your input in the form below. 

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