Anecdotal evidence suggests that many companies would like to employ people with disabilities, yet may doubt their ability to keep these individuals safe on the job. Companies also may worry that employees who have disabilities might unintentionally create hazards for themselves and other employees, raise workers' compensation rates and possibly create a liability exposure.
As a result, many people with disabilities remain excluded from the workforce despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which made discrimination based on disability illegal (see ADA Recap sidebar). According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012) data for March 2011, only 21% of people with a disability over age 16 are in the labor force. That compares with 69.7% of people without a disability. These data indicate that American industry is ignoring a potentially valuable segment of the workforce. Furthermore, a huge amount of human capital is not being developed to its fullest.
Thanks to the vision of a senior Walgreens distribution executive who has an adult son with a disability, the planned construction of a new distribution center (DC) in Anderson, SC, became an ideal opportunity to hire large numbers of qualified new employees with a broad range of disabilities. The goal from the start was to create an integrated work environment in which employees with and without disabilities would work side by side, doing the same jobs for the same pay, and being held to the same standards.