Employment Law

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month


Jimmy Dean, Dawn Hutchinson, Shannon Wilson, Sharon Cullen, Beth Schumer and Ryan Boyle of Helping People Succeed’s Successful Futures program
Debi Athos, Jen Ripperger and Janet Kissam of Helping People Succeed’s Successful Futures program


October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. And lest you think the only people this affects favorably are those who have found jobs that match their individual skill sets, the fact is their employers and the general population of the United States benefit, too.

Helping People Succeed, the nonprofit that’s been making a difference on the Treasure Coast for more than half a century, has two programs that match employers and employees: Successful Futures and Project Search.

As Suzy Hutcheson, CEO of Helping People Succeed says, “Many people have asked us, what can a person with a disability do in the workforce of today - our answer is just about anything.”

Shannon Wilson is Director of Successful Futures at the nonprofit. She receives referrals from Florida’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation which in turn are matched up with clients of Helping People Succeed who have the physical, cognitive and sensory skills to do the job.

Because there is great care taken to make successful matches, it can take 3-4 months for a client to find a job. Employers will get referrals that include:

  • Matching their needs with the abilities and skills of applicants
  • Providing on-site training for the new employee
  • Providing follow-up and on-going support services both to the newly hired employee and the employer to ensure job placement satisfaction

The follow-up support services are performed by a Helping People Succeed Employment Consultant (or Retention Specialist) who works with each employee, giving whatever support is necessary for the client to understand, perform and enjoy their job.

This can continue throughout the client’s entire working career if it is requested. Businesses that have trouble hiring competent workers are often pleasantly surprised when they offer someone with a disability the chance to work for them.

Helping People Succeed’s other initiative, Project Search, is offered in conjunction with the Martin County School District. It’s a one-year transition program for students aged 18-21 who have graduated from high school. It takes place in a business setting in which the interns are totally immersed, allowing them to become employable with competitive work skills. Individualized job development and placement is on-going and based on strengths, skills and interests.

Hutcheson likes to say that Helping People Succeed creates taxpayers. And although October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, the nonprofit works every day of the year to help people with disabilities become accepted, included and valued employees.

For more information about employment training and other programs offered by Helping People Succeed, visit www.hpsfl.org.



Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email staff@tcbusiness.com
Oct. 17, 2022|



A South Florida company had a sales team consisting of 22 men and five women. The owner of the company was inspired by the #MeToo movement and wanted to make sure he was doing his part to “level the playing field.” He decided to run an ad specifically intended to hire more women into the sales department. The company ran a job listing on the website, stating it was “taking the radical approach of actively soliciting women salespeople.” The title above the listing announced that the company “Wants to Hire Women Sales Associates!”

Although the ad specifically targeted women applicants, a male applicant applied but was rejected via an email that read, “At this time we won’t be moving forward with your application.”

The male applicant filed a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The FCHR investigated the allegations and in June 2018 ruled partially in favor of the applicant, determining that the company fully considered his application regardless of his gender before it rejected him. However, the FCHR also concluded the company’s stated gender preference was “direct evidence of gender discrimination” under Florida law. The FCHR stated in its ruling that “reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful practice occurred” in the company’s explicitly soliciting female applicants.

In fact, the FCHR’s executive director wrote in her determination of reasonable cause that the company “provided the posting and acknowledged that ... it stated a gender preference because [the company] wanted to get more female employees …This is direct evidence of gender discrimination under section 760.10(6), Florida Statutes.”

The company’s main defense was that the male applicant was unqualified for the position because he had no prior sales experience and did not even live in Florida.

The applicant was seeking back pay and front pay from the date the position was filled by another individual, along with attorney fees.
This recent South Florida case reminds all Florida employers that there is a significant danger in running advertisements, including online postings, excluding a certain segment of the population.

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email staff@tcbusiness.com

David Miklas

David Miklas

Employment lawyer based in Fort Pierce. His firm, Law Office of David Miklas, exclusively represents employers, both in the private and public sectors.

Jul. 8, 2019|