Florida Blue named SMB Employer of the Year for disability inclusion

The U.S. Business Leadership Network helps businesses drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace. (U.S. Business Leadership Network)

Health insurer Florida Blue, headquartered in Jacksonville, has been named the 2017 Employer of the Year in the category of businesses with fewer than 100,000 employees for disability inclusion in its workforce.

The honor was announced on August 25 by the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN), a national nonprofit that helps business drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace.

For its numerous initiatives enabling people with disabilities to join its workforce and easily access information, Florida Blue earned a perfect score of 100 on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) survey, a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the USBLN to track trends in business inclusion policies.

"We firmly believe that a diverse, inclusive workforce increases our understanding of each other and our customers," said Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty. "It strengthens our ability to learn from one another and ultimately enables us to deliver on our mission to help people and communities achieve better health. This recognition of our commitment to be inclusive of people with disabilities is very meaningful to us at Florida Blue."

During the past year, alone, the company has:

  • Tripled the number of people with disabilities hired year-over-year due to robust accessibility efforts and community outreach;
  • Focused on accommodations to assist people with disabilities that led to a 134% increase in accommodations made in 2016 over the previous year;
  • Partnered with the City of Jacksonville to lead the annual Disability and HireAbilities Symposium and Job Fair attended by 160 employers and hundreds of job candidates;
  • Supported the launch of www.employmefirst.org, a website partnership among the City of Jacksonville, The ARC Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities;
  • Piloted a program with The ARC Jacksonville to hire individuals with intellectual disabilities as part of an effort to create more inclusive and meaningful employment opportunities in the corporate world;
  • Launched a pre-orientation for new hires with disabilities to meet their needs immediately as they start their careers at Florida Blue; and
  • Developed and implemented a unique training program for customer service advocates to respond to the needs of people with disabilities, and designated resources to handle complex cases.

Florida Blue is a leader in two areas that many companies have not addressed: According to the USBLN, only 39% of companies in the DEI survey communicate the option to request accommodations for those with disabilities during job interviews, and just over half audit their external websites for accessibility by customers with disabilities.

"Accommodations are an important aspect of our work environment," said Florida Blue's Chief Human Resource Officer Amy Ruth. "When recruiting for open positions, all candidates are assessed equally based on capability. Once selected for an interview, our recruiters are trained to inquire if a candidate requires any accommodations for their visit to our location. If so, we have dedicated specialists work to coordinate the visits." Additionally, in the past year, Florida Blue also launched the Meaningful Access Project to design its website and all customer-facing digital platforms to meet accessibility guidelines."

The DEI survey is completed by 110 companies nationally, and it offers businesses an assessment of their policies and practices for disability inclusion. Florida Blue was among a record 68 companies to receive a perfect score, a signal that becoming inclusive of people with disabilities drives positive business results.

The companies participating in the 2017 DEI represent 21 different sectors of the American economy, and have a total of approximately 7.2 million workers in the U.S.—or about 5% of all American workers. In addition to their impact on the American workforce, these companies have a substantial financial impact on the economy, with all publicly held corporations representing nearly $6 trillion in market value. 

The recognition of being a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” is reserved for those companies that have scored 80 or above on the DEI. The full company list can be accessed here.