Employment of Workers with Disabilities Under 14(c)

14c wages for employees
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act enacted in 1938 permits employers to pay subminimum wages upon receipt of a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division. With 14(c) in place, employers are able to pay employees based on their ability to perform a job–meaning individuals with disabilities may qualify to be paid a statutory minimum for their work and performance.  Employment at subminimum wage provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to become valued members of the workforce. This is only permitted under certificates issued by the Wage and Hour Division and can only be enforced when a disability actually impairs an individual from performing the job. However, if the individual is eligible to perform a different job where no impairment hinders their performance, the employer is required to pay at least the minimum wage for them to do that job. Employees may acquire proper training or gain experience to successfully overcome their disabilities in the workplace in order to replace the subminimum wage with the regular rate. 
What disabilities constitute a subminimum wage?
  • Blindness
  • Age
  • Intellectual or developmental disability (IDD)
  • Mental retardation
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Vocational, social, cultural, or educational disabilities in conjunction with another physical and/or mental deficiency or injury
  • Drug addiction and alcoholism qualified by the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST)
  • Learning disability under certain conditions

How does the Americans with Disabilities Act affect 14(c)?

On July 26, 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which broke down barriers for people living with disabilities in the United States. This law strictly prohibits discrimination based on physical disabilities or IDD but does not void the provisions of 14(c) as determined by the Office of the Solicitor (SOL).

  • The ADA protects individuals with disabilities and ensures they are deemed eligible to be employed at any institution, with or without reasonable accommodation.
  • 14(c) clarifies that employers are not required to lower quality or production standards to accommodate individuals with disabilities beyond rational justification.

Therefore, a certificate under section 14(c) is essentially a provision to ensure employees are being paid appropriately based on performance, but separate requirements must be met to ensure employers’ compliance with the ADA.

To determine the threshold needed to be met for employees to make at least minimum wage under 14(c), employers must conduct measurements and studies on the average productivity of a worker who does not have a disability. Those metrics set the standards for performance as well as compensation.

14(c) Enforcement

If it is determined an individual qualifies to be paid subminimum wage, there is specific software that exists, such as the Vertex System’s Client Payroll Manager, to support the payroll process of an employer through the inclusion of various wages. 

Vertex Client Payroll Manager provides for piece-rated, productivity, prevailing, and minimum wage-based calculations and pay, all while capturing the employees’ productivity along with extensive demographics reporting, including disabilities.

Learn more about this adaptable software here.


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