An Overview of Competitive Integrated Employment

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Competitive integrated employment (CIE) is work performed by a person with an impairment or health-related disability ("health impairment") within an integrated setting. Wages are at least minimum wage or higher and at a rate comparable to non-disabled workers performing the same tasks.


Competitive integrated employment helps the beneficiary to secure the dignity of economic self-sufficiency within their community. Competitive integrated employment is related to vocational rehabilitation, which is a process that helps those with developmental, psychological, physical, and other impairments or health-related disabilities to obtain, maintain or return to employment.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law in 2014, improved services for disabled individuals to help them find and obtain competitive integrated employment. Competitive integrated employment positions provide customized employment and workplace support to meet the specific abilities of the disabled individual as well as the business needs of the employer.

Competitive integrative employment contrasts with facility employment, in which the majority of people have a disability. Facility employment is referred to as sheltered employment.

What Does Integrated Employment Mean?

Integrated employment refers to jobs held by people with disabilities who perform work in typical workplace environments with coworkers who do not have disabilities. The wages earned by the person with a disability in an integrated employment setting are consistent with those earned by other workers in the community who do not have disabilities and perform the same or similar work.

Employees with disabilities must have the same opportunities as those without disabilities in the same position to interact with other employees, customers and vendors. This must be a normal part of the duties of the job and occur at and throughout the work site.

Workplace Support and Customized Employment

Workplace supports are common in many businesses and include things such as mentors who can help an employee learn a new job, develop social networks within the job, take advantage of training offered, and more.

Workplace support and customized employment may also include modifications to an employee's work environment, changes to certain job functions that help an employee successfully perform them, and adjustments to employment policies or practices that support the employee.

These supports generally fall into three main categories: 

  • Environmental supports can be physical structures, surroundings, or objects present in the business that make the job site more accessible for current or future employees.
  • Procedural supports are actions or activities that employers provide to assist potential or current employees with performing their jobs and job-related functions.
  • Natural are informal supports that are typically available to any employee. These may include ride sharing to and from work with other employees, or a senior staff member helping a new co-worker get the job done when he/she needs extra assistance.

The Right to Competitive Integrated Employment

People with disabilities have a right to employment in places where they work alongside others with disabilities and those without, and for wages that are at least minimum wage and that are competitive with others in similar positions. CIE is designed to help those who are often given jobs that earn them less than minimum wage, especially those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Locating Employment Support

Those with disabilities who are seeking employment and the opportunity to become independent can get competitive integrated employment with the help of their state Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) or similar regional employment agencies.

You can find One-Stop Career Centers and local workforce services through the careeronestop website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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  • Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. Department of Labor. 2016.