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Employment First Resources

SELN Employment First Resource List

Revised May 2016


Over the past 15 years, the concept of “Employment First” has emerged in the disability field. This approach emphasizes that employment in integrated settings within the community should be the priority outcome for people with disabilities, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). As this approach has gained traction, over 30 states have enacted formal Employment First policies. Additionally, many states have enacted related legislation and policy issuances, reports, and documents, as well as state-specific online resources and websites. We developed this comprehensive listing to assist policymakers, advocates, and researchers in implementing Employment First approaches in states. Use of the term “Employment First” has not necessarily been a requirement for inclusion. Instead, the focus has been on resources that reinforce the principles of Employment First, whether that specific language is used or not. To be included in the list as a policy, an item must be an official directive from a state government agency stating that employment in the community (in the general workforce) is the first and primary option for individuals with disabilities. In some cases, these policies are highly detailed and substantive, and may be specific legislation or directives. In other cases, the policy consists of an executive order endorsing integrated employment as the first and primary service option for publicly funded services, with limited specifics. There are additional cases where language has been identified within an overall policy directive that aligns with generally accepted Employment First commitments.

A Summary of the Status of Employment First Thirty-three states have an official Employment First policy (based on legislation, policy directive, etc.). Seventeen states have passed legislation stating that integrated employment is preferred over other service options: Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The other 16 (Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) have a policy directive, executive order, or similar official policy statement, but not legislation. Some states have both legislation and a non-legislative policy directive (e.g., Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington). Twenty-one state policies are cross-disability: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. The remainder of states’ policies are focused exclusively on individuals with IDD: California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington. (Oklahoma’s legislation is cross-disability, and its policy directive is specific to individuals with IDD.)

 In addition to the 33 states with Employment First policies, the other 18 states on this list (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) have Employment First efforts and initiatives underway, but no official Employment First policy has been issued. These states vary in their level of activity, ranging from initial expressions of interest in Employment First with limited follow-up, to robust systems change efforts. In terms of specific activities in some of these states, New York has a September 2014 executive order that mandates the development of an Employment First policy. Nevada has an executive order establishing a governor’s taskforce on integrated employment. Four states (Alabama, Hawaii, Indiana, and Kentucky) have proposed legislation that has not been enacted. North Dakota passed legislation creating a committee on employment of people with disabilities to support Employment First. However, this legislation does not institute Employment First as a policy, i.e., it does not specifically prioritize integrated employment over other service options.

The level of resources associated with a state does not necessarily indicate the state’s focus on employment for people with disabilities. Some states that have not been strongly linked with Employment First have had consistently evident employment outcomes. In the course of developing this document, we have included as many examples as possible. The goal is to show the wide range of approaches to Employment First. Inclusion of specific policies and documents on this list should in no way be viewed as an endorsement. As noted, legislation and policies vary significantly in terms of the strength and clarity of their language. The growing emphasis on Employment First has been encouraging, and provides a catalyst for the longneeded increase in workforce participation for individuals with disabilities. At the same time, creation of documents, reports, and policies will not result in increases in workforce participation, without a long-term commitment to actions that make the Employment First vision a reality. Setting a vision and direction is a starting point–but it must be done in conjunction with comprehensive systems change that results in shifting of resources towards integrated employment, a service system that provides consistent and high-quality employment assistance and supports, and measurement and accountability for achieving employment outcomes. Employment First is also about more than just changing how services and supports for people with disabilities are provided. It is reflective of a fundamental cultural shift by policymakers, public officials, service systems, service providers, employers, and most importantly by individuals with disabilities themselves. This new viewpoint recognizes people with disabilities as full participants in the economic mainstream, working side by side with their fellow citizens.

General Information on Employment First

1. APSE PUBLICATIONS: a. APSE Employment First Statement: Statement outlining principles of EmploymentFirst –

b. APSE Employment First White Paper: “Establishing a National EmploymentFirst Agenda” paper from APSE –

2. Alliance for Full Participation: The Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) site contains a number of Employment First documents and updates from various states on their Employment First activities –

3. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Article – Employment First: A Beginning Not an End:August 2011 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities journal article summarizing the principles of Employment First – IDD Article – Employment First

4. NACDD Report – The Time is Now: Embracing Employment First: November 2011 report from the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, providing an overview of Employment First, with a particular focus on DD Council efforts –

5. NASDDS Article – Workers First: Article from June 2009 Community Services Reporter, published by National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services providing an overview of Employment First efforts –

6. NTAR Leadership Center Blog: Blog post on Employment First by Wendy Parent, Kansas University –

7. ODEP-USDOL Employment First Leadership Mentor Program: Information on state’s participating in ODEP’s EmploymentFirst Leadership Mentor Program –

8. SELN PUBLICATIONS a. SELN Employment First Publication: “Q & A’s on State Employment First Policies”: publication from the State Employment Leadership Network (SELN)providing an overview of Employment First, and specific efforts in Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington State, Georgia, Minnesota, and Indiana – Q&A’s on State Employment First Policies

State-Specific Information

For states with an Employment First policy, this is the first document listed. Also included are reports developed by official state workgroups and grassroots initiatives. For states where Employment First activities have not been identified, state efforts emphasizing integrated employment have been noted. If the state has an Employment First website, that is the final item listed.


  •  AL Legislation (proposed): The Alabama Employment First Initiative Act, originally introduced in April 2013: int.pdf • AL Website: Alabama Employment First website:

Alaska •


  •  AZ Department of Economic Security Division of Developmental Disabilities: Summary of Arizona efforts on Employment First: • AZ UCEDD Employment First Web Page: Information on Arizona coalition working to advance Employment First:




  • CO Employment First Legislation (passed): Colorado Cross-Disability Employment First bill (SB 16- 077), enacted in June 2016: 6458F1?open&file=077_enr.pdf
  • CO Policy on Integrated Employment: Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing – Rule 8.609.9 stating that integrated employment is considered the primary service option for adult day habilitation services and supports for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; this is a long-standing policy prior to passage of legislation: R%202505-10%208.600
  • CO Proposed Changes to Policy on Integrated Employment: Recommendations issued in 2005 for strengthening policy on integrated employment to ensure it is the primary service option:



District of Columbia

  • DC Employment First Policy: District of Columbia Department of Disability Services Employment First Policy, issued in December 2014:
  • DC Mayoral Proclamation on Employment First: October 2012 Mayoral Proclamation declaring the District of Columbia an Employment First State. See following item for link to proclamation.
  • D.C. P & A Employment Report: Report from University Legal Services, protection and advocacy program for District of Columbia, advocating support for Employment First efforts. Includes copy of October 2012 mayoral proclamation in appendix:
  • DC DDS Employment First Summary:







  • IN Employment First Bill (passed): Employment First Legislation, SB 390, passed in April 2017:
  • IN APSE Employment First Statement: Statement from Indiana APSE advocating for Employment First – originally issued in 2010, revised in 2013:
  • IN Employment First Fact Sheet: 2016 fact sheet advocating for Employment First Policy from Indiana APSE:




  • KY Employment First Legislation (proposed): Employment First bill, HB 292, introduced in February 2013:
  • KY DD Council Report: State Activities to Implement Employment First as the Employment Strategy for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: 1813.pdf







  • MN Employment First Policy: MN Department of Human Services Employment First policy (crossdisability), adopted in September 2014:
  • MN Olmstead Plan: Final version of Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, approved by the court in August 2015; plans calls for implementation of the state’s Employment First policy: ectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=opc_home
  • Putting the Promise of Olmstead into Practice – Minnesota’s 2013 Olmstead Plan: Adoption of the Minnesota Employment First Policy was a result of the state’s draft Olmstead plan issued in 2013:
  • Myths and Realities of Olmstead Employment First: Publication from the Minnesota State Council on Disability that discusses a number of myths regarding Employment First:
  • MN Employment First Summit Reports: Reports from MN Employment First Summits I, II, III, IV, held from 2007–2011:!action/c1ulz
  • MN Department of Human Services Information on Employment First: • MN Employment Policy Initiative Website:





  • NV Executive Order: July 2014 Governor’s Executive Order (2014-16) establishing a taskforce on integrated employment: Images/EO_2014-16.pdf
  • NV Governor’s Council Employment Position Statement and Report: 2014 Nevada’s Governors Council on Developmental Disabilities position statement and report on integrated employment: mploymentFinal.pdf
  • Employment First Legislative Presentation: May 2014 presentation on Employment First to NV Legislature Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs: May-2014/VIAManningHarrington.pdf

New Hampshire

New Mexico

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Rhode Island

South Carolina

  • SC DDSN Employment First Policy: South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Employment First Policy (700-07-DD), specific to IDD, issued in October 2015: DD%20-%20NEW%20(102815).pdf
  • SC DDSN Policy Statement: Policy statement from SC Department of Developmental Disabilities and Special Needs Day Services Manual: oyment%20First%20in%20South%20Carolina.PDF

South Dakota

  • SD Governor’s Statement: July 2013 statement from Governor of South Dakota, declaring goal of making South Dakota an Employment First state:
  • SD Taskforce Report: January 2014 South Dakota Employment Works Taskforce Report: %20(FINAL).pdf





Vermont does not have an Employment First policy. However, Vermont’s Developmental Disability Services in the state Department of Disability and Aging Services has a number of policies in support of an Employment First paradigm:

  • VT Employment Philosophy: A public stated philosophy that presumes employability for all:
  • VT Funding Policy: For those receiving employment supports, use of funds for sheltered workshops or enclaves is not allowed (see p. 43 of System of Care Plan):


Washington State

West Virginia




Developed by David Hoff, Institute for Community Inclusion, UMass Boston

Copies of items that are not available on the worldwide web can be obtained by sending an email to

The State Employment Leadership Network (SELN) is a cross-state cooperative venture of state MR/DD agencies that are committed to improving employment outcomes for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities. Working documents contain information collected in response to state requests, and federal, state and local initiatives of interest to the SELN membership. They are intended to share work in progress but may not be a comprehensive analysis or compilation. Working documents are updated over time as information changes.