Report: South Carolina Sheltered Workshops Violate Federal Law

road sign saying "Minimum Wage"

by Andy Jones
July 3, 2017

Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities released a new report June 9, slamming South Carolina's system of specialized job centers for people with disabilities.

The report focuses on a select group of employers with so-called 14(c) certificates from the Department of Labor, which allows them to hire people with disabilities and employ them at rates below the minimum wage.

Created under a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act more than 80 years ago as a means to employ people deemed otherwise unemployable, the centers, known as “sheltered workshops” by their critics, employ thousands of people with disabilities in the state.

The advocacy group monitored 10 centers for the report, finding that most of their employees are not being taught job skills, or otherwise being provided a meaningful opportunity to transition into competitive employment. Most of the employees spend most their time doing routine, menial tasks, lacking any interaction with people without disabilities, further stunting any potential career growth.

The report contends that the system segregates people with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As many of these workshops are partially funded by Medicaid’s Home and Community Services waivers, the advocates allege that the system is failing to comply with recent regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2014.

“Twenty six years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), far too many South Carolinians with intellectual and related disabilities still lack opportunities for real work,” the report states. “They spend their days in segregated environments doing unskilled work for virtually no wages. Many languish in these settings for years: supposedly being prepared for work, but never moving to meaningful employment.

“These segregated programs violate the ADA’s mandate that individuals with disabilities receive services in the most integrated environment.”

You can read Unjustified Isolation, Unwarranted Assumptions here [PDF].

Disability Rights Washington and Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and South Carolina, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.