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Walgreens Bets Big On Employees With Disabilities

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Walgreens is expanding its efforts to employ people with disabilities, with a new focus on inclusion at retail stores.

The national drugstore chain, which first embraced inclusion with a goal of having employees with disabilities make up 10 percent of its distribution center workforce, is rapidly bringing the concept to the storefront.

Through a pilot program that began in Texas, Walgreens is partnering with local service providers to identify and train those with disabilities for jobs as cashiers and other retail positions, company officials said.

The program is currently in place in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and New York as well as parts of Wisconsin and Connecticut, according to Walgreens spokeswoman Vivika Panagiotakakos who indicated that further expansion is expected.

Though the drugstore is behind the training initiative, some participants accept jobs at other retailers as well, said Panagiotakakos who characterized the initiative as “very successful.”

In addition to actively hiring more people with disabilities, Walgreens has become a model for other large companies as well. Last year, Proctor & Gamble cited Walgreens’ example when they announced that at least 30 percent of employees at a new packaging facility in Maine would be people with physical or developmental disabilities.

While welcome by many in the disability community, the corporate inclusion efforts are far from the norm. Americans with disabilities faced a 15.8 percent unemployment rate in February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — significantly higher than the 8.3 percent jobless rate experienced by the general population.

Meanwhile, a number of employers are actively campaigning against a proposed new rule from the Labor Department calling for most government contractors to ensure that 7 percent of their employees are people with disabilities.

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Comments (10 Responses)

  1. Jan says:

    Kudos to Walgreen’s and the other companies that are following their lead!!!!!

  2. Scott Standifer says:

    What a great program! Deb Russell, manager of Diversity and Inclusion at Walgreens, outlined the expansion program at our Autism Works National Conference last week in St. Louis, MO.

    This is a direct extension of the innovative autism employment program begun at Walgreens’ Anderson SC plant – which quickly became a general disability employment program and now boasts 40% of staff with disabilities, across all levels of management. As predicted, they are seeing lower turnover and great productivity from this workforce, and more and more companies like Proctor and Gamble are inquiring for advice in setting up their own projects.

    It is exciting to see this program, already established in 20+ distribution centers across the country, being extended into the local retail stores. Walgreens and Randy Lewis deserve a lot of credit for taking the lead and being such great corporate peer mentors!

    - Scott Standifer
    Organizer, Autism Works National Conference
    Author, Adult Autism & Employment: a guide for vocational rehabilitation professionals

  3. Marc Carter says:

    That’s great. Walgreens has always been an industry leader in providing meaningful opportunities for the disabled. I wish there was a Walgreens in my neighborhood, they would certainly get my business.

  4. joe gerardi says:

    walgreens competitor CVS has been very supportive in the long island ny area —my son who is
    developmentally quite diverse has been a supported employee there since nov of 12th grade
    and unbelievably that will be 10 years this nov

  5. Marian says:

    My son applied at Walgreens but was never hired.

  6. Donna says:

    This is awesome. I work in the vocational rehabilitation field this just gives me another reason to shop and fill my prescriptions at Walgreens.

  7. Ann Remington says:

    Shame on those employers who are lobbying against the 7%. Seven people out of one hundred. I don’t know the per population number of individuals with disabilities in this county but come on, it has to be way more than 7%. They probably have way more than that working for them and don’t know it.

    I would like a list of the companies that are lobbying againist it. Really…shame on them.

  8. James says:

    Good for Walgreens. Unfortunately my client with a disability could not pass the online questionairre that Walgreens uses to screen applicants though my client had retail experience and is generally bright. The questionairre may be an obstacle for some with disabilities.

  9. Les Lewis says:

    Who can I contact in the Austin, TX area about this program, PLEASE? I have a mobility disability and use a power chair and I can operate without any problems. I have been unemployed since 2008 and I have 25 years’ experience in finance analysis, project management, and adult education. Additionally, I have an MBA in management systems and a M.Ed. in reengineering and training. Plus I would love to get an entry level or part time position and a minimum salary. I just want to work again.

    Les Lewis
    512-251-4061

  10. Ann says:

    My only problem with the local one is an employee robbed my disabled son, and all they did was send a 25 gift card. She stole his iPad tht he uses to communicate, and no one even apologized. Store to store there are problems.

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