What is Employment First?

Employment First is the idea that everyone has the right to work. This includes people with significant disabilities. In Kentucky, competitive and integrated employment is best for people with disabilities. Competitive and integrated employment means:

  • Workplaces hire employees with and without disabilities
  • All employees are paid minimum wage or higher
  • Employees with disabilities receive the same benefits as those without disabilities
  • Employees with disabilities receive the same opportunities for promotions as those without disabilities
  • Employees with disabilities do the same work as their co-workers without disabilities.

Kentucky became an Employment First state on May 15, 2018. On June 29, 2020, Governor Beshear signed an Executive Order to continue the state’s commitment to employment for people with disabilities.

The Employment First Council

Kentucky has created an Employment First Council. The Council carries out the Executive Order and has 31 members. Council Members are people with disabilities, family members, employers, and agency representatives.

The role of the Council is to:

  • Identify state policies that prevent workplaces from employing people with disabilities
  • Provide guidance to change those policies
  • Create training and resources
  • Recommend practices that increase employment
  • Assess progress of these efforts
  • Provide an annual report to the Governor on progress toward these goals.

View a list of the council members here.

How can I or my organization get involved?

Many people and organizations commit to Employment First goals. These organizations will use best employment practices with everyone. This includes people with disabilities.

If you or your organization want to learn more, call Kathy Sheppard-Jones at 859-257-8104 or email her at kjone@uky.edu. Consider signing the proclamation of collaboration here.