Coalition: Make NV an Employment First state again

A man with IDD is standing behind a cash register smiling.

baristaA coalition of Nevada groups is behind a statewide effort to make Nevada an Employment First state. That would align the state with a U.S. Labor Department goal of meaningful employment, fair wages and career advancements for people with disabilities.

Forty states have Employment First efforts on the books, but Nevada isn’t one of them.

Catherine Nielsen, executive director of the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Nevada Employment First Task Force, said they’ve been having conversations with the governor’s office and pushing for an executive order next year.

“Past the pandemic there were a lot of people out of work, and as we expressed, there is a lot of that untapped workforce being taken into consideration right now, that with this executive order we will be ensuring that we can ‘put our money where our mouth is,'” she said.

Nielsen added former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed an Executive Order during his term, but it wasn’t continued by his successor, Democrat Steve Sisolak. She hopes Gov. Joe Lombardo will show his support with an Executive Order.

Skeptics of Employment First say while it’s well-intentioned, the policies could have little impact on a segregated and entrenched vocational system.

Dawn Lyons, executive director of the Nevada Statewide Independent Living Council, said Nevada has what she calls a “notorious poor track record” when it comes to hiring and maintaining people with disabilities in employment. She’s convinced it’s important to make this a priority for the Silver State to educate employers and the disability community to combat misconceptions.

Lyons said many people with disabilities have shared their view that the standardized process of securing a job doesn’t work for everyone.

“It’s really just a matter of educating and letting employers know that if they can deviate from that process just a little bit, and give a person a chance with a disability, they might be very surprised at how well that would work out,” she explained.

Lyons added that Nevadans with disabilities are capable of working and want to work, as staying unemployed or underemployed can doom many to a life of poverty. She is confident that Employment First can create more inclusion and equality for all. And the council is collecting data on employment experience.

December 5, 2023 – Alex Gonzalez, Public News Service (NV)