New Brunswick

'Number one thing is the customers': Talent campaign highlights disabled workers

Doctors gave Barry Laurent little hope of ever walking or talking because he has cerebral palsy. He proved them wrong and is now a valued employee of Casino New Brunswick.

Talent for Hire campaign offers one-stop resource guide on value of hiring people with disabilities

Barry Laurent puts in an 'honest day's work' at Casino New Brunswick, his employers say. (Affinity Productions/YouTube)

Doctors gave Barry Laurent little hope of ever walking or talking because he has cerebral palsy. He proved them wrong and now works for Casino New Brunswick.

"Just because you have a physical or mental challenge doesn't mean a thing," Laurent said.

Casino New Brunswick is now part of a national awareness campaign based in New Brunswick to persuade employers to hire more people with disabilities.

The program, called Hire for Talent, is a one-stop guide for small and medium-size businesses that are hesitant to fill positions with disabled workers. 

The campaign makes a business case to employers about the benefits of a diversifed workplace.

"I get the fear for a small business, I really do," said Jeanine Chavarie, director of human resources for Casino New Brunswick.

"Is that person going to cost me a lot medical-wise, you know insurance wise … what if they get hurt? [But] they just want to do a good job and come back the next day and do that."

Her comments come from a promotional video for the Restigouche Community Business Development Corporation, the agency that launched the project.

It developed the online toolkit in partnership with more than 20 organizations and disability service providers, including the New Brunswick Association for Community Living.

Healthy bottom line

Danny Soucy, the non-profit organization's executive director, said the goal is to match people with jobs that best suit their abilities.

"We're talking about hiring people that can do the job, we're not talking about hiring people because they have a disability," Soucy said Wednesday in an interview with Shift.

"People that have skills, talents and abilities that will match with your workplace, so you get an employee that will do the job for you, and do it well."

It's healthier for the bottom line overall, said Soucy, because "you're going to have an employee dedicated to what they're doing."

'I felt useless'

Barry Laurent, who works as a housekeeper at Casino New Brunswick, said he's faced a lot of challenges because of his disability.

"A lot of people didn't give me the opportunities, and so I felt useless," Laurent said. 

Laurent has worked at the casino "since the beginning," said general manager Kate MacDonald, and he is loved by the team.

"He works full time, five days a week, eight hour days and he puts in his honest day's work," said Chavarie.

'I'm very proud'

Laurent said appreciation from the casino's customers matters a lot.

"The number one thing is the customers welcoming you and appreciate what you do, because I get a lot of compliments that say how good I do in my job," he said. "I'm very proud."

"What's in my future is to continue working here, raising my son, and take it one day at a time."

'Like every other employee'

The Hire for Talent campaign is a free online guide answers legal questions, and offers strategies on interviewing, hiring and retaining disabled workers.

Soucy said it isn't a big expense to accomodate employees with disabilities, and they tend to have better attendance than their non-disabled co-workers.

"In our community we have a diverse group of individuals, we have a percentage of different groups, and our workplace should look like that," he said.

"They're an employee like every other employee, nothing special, they go to work in the morning, they do their job, they come home at night."

The Hire for Talent project is funded by the federal government's Opportunities Fund for Person's with Disabilities.

With files from Shift