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A D A Wisconsin Employment Link Newsletter:  Linking Employers to Workplace Solutions.

Issue 3, Vol 1, September 2009

The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is a coalition of people with disabilities, businesses, and government entities supported by Great Lakes Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, WorkSource Wisconsin, and Employment Resources, Inc. More information about the ADA Wisconsin Partnership.

Send your questions, comments, or suggestions to Or Join Our Mailing List.

Putting People First: An Individualized HR Policy Approach

By Britta Jabbar | ADA Wisconsin Partnership

For Kris Hackbarth-Horn, “putting people first” isn’t just something she does on her own time, it’s a successful business practice.

Hackbarth-Horn is the Chief Operating Officer of People at Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin. She also currently serves as the State Director of the Wisconsin Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Council. Across Wisconsin, Goodwill employs 1400 team members who support the various branches of the organization, including administration, human services, and retail sales.

Photo of Goodwill Industries North Central Wisconsin Chief Operating Officer Kris Hackbarth-Horn“Putting People First” is one of the twelve core values that guide the human resource policies and practices at the Goodwill organization. These core values were developed and defined by the organization’s leaders five years ago. For the leadership team at Goodwill, the process of establishing a set of values was critical to creating an inclusive and diverse culture within the organization.

Embracing diversity is inherent in several of Goodwill’s core values, and includes employing people with disabilities at all levels of the organization. “If you’re going to ‘put people first,’ you have to realize that that means all people,” Hackbarth-Horn argues.

“Putting people first” necessitates letting go of traditional policies that put rules first and employees with disabilities second. When an organization’s leadership defines the values and standards of practice for an organization, its employees can come together with a common understanding of what is expected and how to support each other. Well-defined values reduce the need for strict policies and instead allow for a more “common sense” approach to human resource management.

“The biggest struggle in the HR world is policy development.” Hackbarth-Horn says, “We have a tendency to over-policy where policy isn’t needed. In doing that, we build policies that try to capture the five percent that aren’t ‘following the rules.’ However, we end up capturing the really good team members—those who really are trying to follow the rules but get caught up into the system unfairly.”

Instead, policies are replaced by guidelines for working with each employee on an individualized basis. If an employee identifies a need— because of a life event or disability — the supervisor will work with him or her to meet the need in a reasonable way.

“Our goal here at Goodwill is to explore what is reasonable and apply a lot of common sense to the situation. Because that’s what we do for our customers on the human service side of our business, so why wouldn’t we apply the same level of care to helping our team members if they need an accommodation or support?”

The inclusive workplace culture at Goodwill was created through a carefully planned initiative. Inherent to its success, Hackbarth-Horn believes, was the leadership-driven approach.

“People come together, events happen, and every organization creates a culture—good or bad,” Hackbarth-Horn states, “Or culture can be the outcome of purposeful planning. We strongly believe that we can influence our culture for the better.”

This statement is echoed by Katherine McCrary, Vice-President of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and co-founder of the U.S. Business Leadership Network. She asserts that diversity requires an ongoing commitment from the company’s CEO and the development of inclusive values and practices. Employing people with disabilities cannot happen solely at the hiring manager’s or supervisor’s level.

The Business Leadership Network (BLN) promotes a number of HR policies and practices for improving the recruitment and retention of workers with disabilities within an organization. These practices include:

Based on the research and hands on application by Goodwill and countless other companies, adopting inclusive HR policies is not only the right thing to do, it strengthens your bottom line. According to a National Survey of Consumer Attitudes, 92% of American consumers view companies that hire people with disabilities more favorably than those that do not. Furthermore, 87% of consumers would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities. (Source: Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation).

The Goodwill organization is a shining example of how a supportive and diverse workplace contributes to a successful business. “If Goodwill can be an employer of choice out there in the community, we know that the community will value us and continue to support us. It’s an ongoing circle.”

Article Resources:

Check out this excellent resource: The Chicagoland Business Leadership Network has developed a comprehensive checklist of best practices for a diverse workplace for use by Human Resource professionals: A Performance Excellence Roadmap for Disability Employment (pdf).

Comments / Resources to Share? How do you promote an inclusive and diverse workplace through your HR policies?

Share Your HR Policies or Leave a Comment: Email

Ask the ADA Experts

Ask your ADA Questions.Question:One of my employees would like to bring his service animal into the office as a reasonable accommodation. Normally, I would be comfortable approving a service animal for a person with blindness that uses a guide dog. However, in this case, the employee has a condition involving high blood pressure, and his ‘service animal’ is his cat. Although he does have documentation of his disability, we are not sure that his cat qualifies as a service animal. Our company has not developed a policy specifically dealing with service animals. How should we proceed?

Answer:The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered employers to evaluate requests for reasonable accommodations on a case by case basis. Employers are required by the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations when needed to provide equal access to the application process, when needed to allow a qualified employee the opportunity to perform the job or when needed to provide equal access to any benefit associated with the job. A disability under the ADA is defined as:

In addition, an applicant/employee must be qualified to perform the job with or without a reasonable accommodation to be protected by the ADA. An employer has the right to request documentation for an employee requesting an accommodations when the need for the accommodation or the disability is not readily apparent. You only have the right to receive documentation on the specific medical condition or disability for which the employee has requested the accommodation. You do not have the right to a complete medical history.

You indicate that you have determined from documentation provided by the employee that he is covered by the ADA. A next step would be to get documentation on the animal and whether it is a service animal and how the animal serves as a reasonable accommodation for the employee.

image of a guide dogA service animal under the ADA is defined as an individually trained animal that performs a service or task for an individual with a disability. It would be reasonable to get information on the service or task the animal performs for the employee and again how the service or task allows the individual to be able to perform his job. Also, you are never required to provide any reasonable accommodation that would pose an undue hardship. An undue hardship is defined as requiring significant difficulty or expense.

It would not be necessary to create a policy specifically on service animals. If you have a policy and procedure for handling requests for reasonable accommodations then you should be set for responding to employee requests.

Do you have a question about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Accessible Information Technology (AIT)? The DBTAC: Great Lakes ADA Center can answer most questions you have immediately and will research and return your call on complex questions if necessary. They may also be able to provide you with expert referrals for disability issues, which are not addressed by the ADA.

Technical Assistance is available from the DBTAC: Great Lakes ADA Center Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 4:30pm Central Time at 800-949-4232 (V/TTY), or you may submit your comments, questions, and requests online and you will receive a response within 3 business days.

ADA in the News

Summary of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

This historic legislation requires that health insurance equally cover both mental and physical health. The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (The Wellstone- Domenici Parity Act), enacted into law on October 3, 2008, will end health insurance benefits inequity between mental health/substance use disorders and medical/surgical benefits for group health plans with more than 50 employees. The law becomes effective on January 1st, 2010. Under this new law, 113 million people across the country will have the right to non-discriminatory mental health coverage, including 82 million individuals enrolled in self-funded plans (regulated under ERISA), who cannot be assisted by State parity laws.

More about the New Parity Law

The U.S. Department of Labor has re-named and re-launched as is federal Web site that contains disability-related resources on programs, services, laws and regulations to help people with disabilities lead full, independent lives. With just a few clicks, visitors can find critical information on a variety of topics, including benefits, civil rights, community life, education, emergency preparedness, employment, housing, health, technology and transportation. On the site, you can choose to locate information by subject matter for a particular state. You can also stay connected to new resources and information by signing up to receive e-mail updates and/or subscribing to the newsletter.

Diversifying Your Workforce

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy

To meet the need for a comprehensive, portable, and easy to understand guide for employers who are looking to recruit, hire, and retain employees with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy released its new Four-Step Reference Guide. The online version of this valuable resource, which covers topics such as Incentives & ROI, Recruiting, Interviewing & Hiring, and much more, also provides a wealth of links and other resources.

Employer Perspectives on Employment of People with Disabilities

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy

In the first survey of its magnitude, 3,797 businesses representing 2.4 million companies, across 12 industry sectors and various company sizes, reported on their beliefs about and strategies for recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing employees with disabilities.  The print version of Employer Perspectives on Employment of People with Disabilities will be available soon. In the meantime, an online version is available in both MS Word | or PDF.

CareerOneStop Worker ReEmployment Portal

A great influx of job seekers are coming into One-Stop Career Centers seeking unemployment benefits and looking for new jobs, and sometimes new skills and the CareerOneStop Worker ReEmployment Portal is a great tool that can be used for targeted assistance.

The ReEmployment Portal offers the following online tools and the following categories:

The site also includes a link to "Find State Resources" by clicking on the Resources by State link on the top menu bar (or by clicking on any of the links to the four major topic areas) to access state-specific resources including:

2009 Training & Education Events

A B C's of the A D A: Employment Event

ABC's of the ADA: Employment

If you are a consumer and/or a disability professional involved in employment services (Vocational Rehab counselors, employment specialists, job coaches, etc.), you cannot miss this training!

Sponsored by ADA Wisconsin Partnership, DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center and WorkSource, WI

Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 Time: 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Where: The Radisson Hotel of Greater Milwaukee
N14 W24140 Tower Place | Pewaukee, Wisconsin 53072 | Phone: 262-506-6300

Fees: $59 per person with Lunch included - limited scholarships are available for consumers. Contact Stacey Mochnick about scholarships or other event information (email: or phone: 608-246-3444 x226).

Registration: ABC's of ADA: Employment Register online. Download an event flyer to post or share (pdf)!

Event Agenda and Speakers:

Roles, Rights, & Responsibilities: ADA & Employment Title 1 Basics
Speakers: Robin Jones, DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center

Reasonable Accommodations: Definitions, Requests, and Scenarios for Work
Speaker: Linda Batiste, Job Accommodations Network (JAN)

Be an Advocate
Speakers: Dennis McBride, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Diana Sullivan, IndependenceFirst

2009 Wisconsin SHRM State Conference

October 14, 15 & 16, 2009
Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI
More information: Registration | Event Overview

The Wisconsin SHRM State Conference is the Midwest's largest HR professional conference. This years' conference theme is "Your HR Oasis" and will take place from October 14 – 16, 2009 at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI. We encourage your organization to register early to ensure a spot in our conference. Exhibitor booth space sold out fast last year and is taken on a first-come basis.

WorkSource Wisconsin Employer Trainings and Events

WorkSource WisconsinWorkSource Wisconsin was developed as a resource for employers by employers to provide easy access to the information necessary to actively recruit, hire, and retain employees with disabilities. WorkSource Wisconsin offers free or low cost statewide trainings in a variety of employment-related topics.

Coming up!

September 16th – 17th, 2009

Sponsoring Agencies: Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and UW-Barron County. (Synergy Conference) "Regenerating for Generations to Come"

- Preparing Our Businesses for Future Emerging Industries
- Adding Value to the Economy by Connecting Schools & Businesses
- The Bottom Line Advantages of Operating Green
- Technologies and Opportunities within Life Sciences

Date & Time: September 16th, 1:00 p.m. to 6:30 p. m.
September 17th, 7:30 a. m. to 4:15 p. m.

Location: WITC
1019 South Knowles Ave.,
New Richmond, WI 54017
(715) 246-6561

Cost: $135.00

Contact: Tara Bergeson
Synergy Conference Program Manager
715.232.5270 or 715.232.2793

Registration: September 16 or 17 Register online | Link:

September 23, 2009

Sponsoring Agency: International Association of Workforce Professionals (IAWP) (Labor Law Clinic)

- Deciding Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- Defining Misconduct Under Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance Law
- An Overview of Wisconsin's Labor Standards Laws

Date & Time: September 23, 2009 – 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Location: Best Western Midway Hotel
780 Armed Forces Drive
Green Bay, WI 54304

Cost: $77.00

Contact: O.J. Repins
8364 N. 52nd Street
Milwaukee, WI 53223
Phone: 414 354-7223

Reservation: IAWP/Labor Law Clinic
8364 N. 52nd Street
Milwaukee, WI 53223
Phone: 414 354-7223
Fax: 414 354-6946

Download and print the agenda and registration form (PDF format - free viewer available)

September 24th 2009

Sponsoring Agency: WorkSource Wisconsin "The Employers Guide on Disability and Employment"

- Legal Issues Pertaining to Disability
- ADAAA (Amendment Act) and Job Accommodations
- Anger Management in the Work Place

Date & Time: September 24th, 2009 – 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Location: Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (Superior Conference Center)
600 North 21st Street
Superior, Wisconsin 54880

Cost: Free

Contact: Charlie George
WorkSource Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin-Stout

Registration: September 24 Online Registration


Check out more WorkSource 2009 Training and Events.

Great Lakes ADA Center

ADA Audio Conference Series

The ADA Audio Conference Series provides in-depth information on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Accessible Information Technology and other related topics. This program is designed as a springboard to enhance an individual's existing knowledge base or facilitate continued learning regarding regulations and trends under the ADA. Get more information at ADA Audio Conference Series.

Legal Issues Webinar Series: Employment and the ADA

This program is designed for individuals who have a working knowledge of the ADA and are familiar with its basic elements. Sessions are intended to support continued learning and focus on the knowledge that has been gained since the implementation of the law in terms of how the federal agencies and the courts are interpreting the law and subsequent regulations. To learn more and to register visit: Legal Issues Webinar Series.

Disability Law Lowdown Podcasts

The Disability Law Lowdown podcasts will deliver the latest in disability law information every other week. Listeners can subscribe to the podcasts to have shows automatically delivered to them. Access these very informative podcasts at Disability Law Podcasts.

Accessible Technology Webinar Series

The goal of the series is to increase awareness on technology accessibility for people with disabilities. To learn more visit: Accessible Technology Webinar Series.

ADA Basic Building Blocks

The ADA Basic Building Blocks is an introductory web course that explores the legal requirements and the spirit of the ADA. The course content is self-paced and organized into 12 topics that have been designed to be studied in order. It covers the basic principles and core concepts contained in the ADA. Register for the ADA Building Blocks Course.

ADA Title II Tutorial

This free tutorial available at was developed by the DBTAC National Network of ADA Centers to provide education and resources on the requirements applicable to State and Local government under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Approved for 0.3 CEU and 3 CRCC clock hours. For more information, visit ADA Title II Tutorial.

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More Information:

ADA Wisconsin PartnershipThe ADA Wisconsin Partnership provides information, materials, technical assistance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This newsletter will address inclusionary work practices, non-discrimination provisions in employment, the obligations of state and local governments and business to ensure that programs, services, and activities are readily accessible to and useable by people with disabilities.

The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is not responsible for the enforcement of the ADA. The information, materials, and technical assistance, including information contained in this newsletter, are intended solely as informational guidance and are neither a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities under the Act, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA.

Send your questions, comments, or suggestions to Or Join Our Mailing List.

ADA Wisconsin Partners:  Employment Resources, Inc., WorkSource Wisconsin, and Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center: Great Lakes ADA Center

The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is a coalition of people with disabilities, businesses, and government entities supported by Great Lakes Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (GLDBTAC), WorkSource Wisconsin, and Employment Resources, Inc.