When Jamie Leboe, a career coach at Jewish Community Services in Baltimore, was working with a person with disabilities who was employed at a Wegmans grocery store, she was impressed by the commitment, flexibility and support offered to her client.
“During the time that she was working there, she needed to take a leave of absence for health reasons,” Leboe said. “And when she came back to work, she requested to switch to another work department within the store. They gave her the opportunity to work in the other department, even though they said that they don’t usually allow for people to switch before they have been employed for a year.”
The management staff at Wegmans touches base with Jewish Community Services staff regularly to make sure that their employees with disabilities are successful, she said. Leboe appreciates the attention to details that the trainers at Wegmans give to their employees who have disabilities, such as extra training on lifting techniques to make sure they stay safe on the job.
Jewish Community Services is not the only agency to recognize Wegmans success at integrating people with disabilities into their workforce. Among the dozens of awards that Wegmans has received for excellence as an employer, in 2012, the National Down Syndrome Congress gave Wegmans their Employer Award for the opportunities that they have created for people with Down Syndrome.
“As a company, we believe our commitment to diversity and inclusion allows us to be a great place to work and a great place to shop for all people. We feel that hiring people with disabilities is the right thing to do and it aligns with our company value of respect,” said Karen Loughlin, Wegmans talent sourcing and diversity manager. “We try to do our part to ensure people of all abilities have an opportunity for meaningful employment and are honored to play an active and ongoing role to help them gain a real sense of inclusion in our community.”
As with Jewish Community Services in Baltimore, Wegmans establishes partnerships with community groups and social service agencies that support people with disabilities in each store’s area. When Wegmans opened its Northborough, Mass., store in 2011, it worked with the Central Massachusetts Employment Collaborative to hire about 20 workers who have disabilities through a special program called Work Without Limits, an initiative of the University of Massachusetts’ medical school. Work Without Limits was so impressed with Wegmans commitment that they chose to honor the company with a special Collaboration Award at the second annual “Raise the Bar Hire!” conference and career fair focusing on employment for people with disabilities.
“Our managers have a true passion for development of their people and have taken a tremendous amount of pride in seeing their employees learn and grow in their roles,” Loughlin said. “We are proud to say that we work with over 50 agencies across our company that support people with disabilities and see this a great pool of talent to continue to support our future growth.”