Feeling challenged? Nearly 200 Santa Clarita business and community leaders gathered in support of hiring individuals with disabilities Thursday at the Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities. Some of Santa Clarita’s largest employers were also recognized for their efforts in hiring those challenged by some of life’s every day activities. “I am so proud to be in Santa Clarita and be surrounded by so many business professionals helping individuals with disabilities,” said committee President Ken Wiseman, also CEO and managing partner along with President Jay Catlin of AMS Fulfillment. A luncheon titled “Educate, Empower, Employ” not only featured information for employers on federal and state law, but also representatives from the Department of Rehabilitation spoke to business owners about the tax credits available, as well as ways in which the department – and its Santa Clarita office – can actually assist with hiring and training individuals with disabilities. They represent the largest untapped workforce in the world, a spokesperson for the department told the attendees. With a vision set for 2020, the department has set a goal of placing 20,000 individuals annually, at an average pay of $20 per hour by that year. Speaking on behalf of Boston Scientific, Charlene Lowe, the biomedical firm’s senior manager for human resources, said the company has had a program for this population segment underway for the past few years. Boston Scientific sees its efforts as an extension of the work it does on behalf of patients around the world. And there are additional perks for working with individuals who might be challenged. “Disability inclusiveness also fosters innovation,” Lowe said. Attendees were also briefly advised on the sharp teeth of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with regards to discrimination. The federal agency’s power over businesses essentially allows it to be judge, jury and executioner. “They have the final say,” attorney Brian Koegle, partner with the law firm Poole & Shaffery. “They are a very powerful entity.” California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, on the other hand, has little money to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination act and essentially serves as a “paper tiger,” he said. The state’s department will issue a ‘right to sue’ that an employee can use to take their employer to court. Santa Clarita businesses recognized for hiring and having programs for employees with disabilities were: Boston Scientific, AMS Fulfillment, Poole & Shaffery, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SetPoint Medical, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Vons, City of Santa Clarita, and College of the Canyons. The mayor’s committee also recognized Los Angeles County as an employer. College of the Canyons was one of the event’s sponsors and students at Institute of Culinary Education prepared and served the lunch for guests. This story first published in The Signal on Oct. 13, 2016.