The term, competitive integrated employment or (CIE), comes from the federal law, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (otherwise known as WIOA).  Generally, CIE means a job where an individual with a disability earns at least minimum wage, has the same or similar benefits as their co-coworkers without disabilities, works alongside people without disabilities and has opportunities to grow or advance in their job just like their co-workers without disabilities.  In other words, in order for a job to be considered CIE, it allows for equal access to equal opportunities.

Specifically, in order to show that an individual’s job meets the CIE requirements under WIOA, they must show that the individual with a disability:

  • Works at a full or part-time job earning minimum wage or higher
  • Receives wages and benefits similar to those without disabilities performing the same work
  • Works in a fully integrated job with co-workers who do not have disabilities
  • Has the same opportunities to grow in their job and advance as their co-workers without disabilities.

What do we mean by “integrated” job?

WIOA says that the individual’s chosen job must be in an integrated setting.  This means that the job takes place within the community and involves interactions between people with disabilities and their co-workers without disabilities during the individual’s job duties, not during casual or social contact.

Why is CIE Important?

CIE is important because it helps people with disabilities access and participate in the broader community, develop meaningful relationships with peers without disabilities, build new skills and self-esteem, and gives meaning to their days. Perhaps most significantly, CIE provides people with disabilities a pathway out of a life of poverty and towards economic independence. 

For too long, people with disabilities have had few opportunities for “competitive integrated employment” (or CIE). Instead, the only option for many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is going to day programs with other people with disabilities or “sheltered workshops” where workers are typically paid well below minimum wage. 

However, when WIOA was passed and it was clear that it was the intent of Congress that jobs where people with disabilities are paid the same wages as people without disabilities, meaningfully interact and work with their colleagues without disabilities and get the same opportunities for career advancement as their co-workers is now the expectation.

In fact, CIE is so important, that Congress included in WIOA a promise that a committee of experts be formed to make recommendations, to improve the employment participation of people with I/DD and others with significant disabilities by ensuring opportunities for CIE. The final report of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities contains additional detailed information.

Many changes were made by WIOA. But, the clear definition of “competitive, integrated employment” is perhaps one of the most important. The definition of CIE in the law and then the further detail given in the regulations clearly and loudly states that all individuals with disabilities, even those with the most significant disabilities, are capable of achieving high quality jobs in the community. 

The definition of CIE , as stated in WIOA Public Law 113-128, is: 

COMPETITIVE INTEGRATED EMPLOYMENT.—The term ‘competitive integrated employment’ means work that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis (including self-employment)— 

‘‘(A) for which an individual— ‘‘(i) is compensated at a rate that— ‘‘(I)(aa) shall be not less than the higher of the rate specified in section 6(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206(a)(1)) or the rate specified in the applicable State or local minimum wage law; and ‘‘(bb) is not less than the customary rate paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by other employees who are not individuals with disabilities, and who are similarly situated in similar occupations by the same employer and who have similar training, experience, and skills; or ‘‘(II) in the case of an individual who is self- employed, yields an income that is comparable to the income received by other individuals who are not individuals with disabilities, and who are self-employed in similar occupations or on similar tasks and who have similar training, experience, and skills; and ‘‘(ii) is eligible for the level of benefits provided to other employees; 

‘‘(B) that is at a location where the employee interacts with other persons who are not individuals with disabilities (not including supervisory personnel or individuals who are providing services to such employee) to the same extent that individuals who are not individuals with disabilities and who are in comparable positions interact with other persons; and  

‘‘(C) that, as appropriate, presents opportunities for advancement that are similar to those for other employees who are not individuals with disabilities and who have similar positions.’’