A well-known Vermont brewery that has won many prestigious awards for its beer is now earning praise for the way it embraces workers who might have faced barriers to employment in the past.
The Vermont Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities gave an award Wednesday to The Alchemist for reflecting the spirit of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The small business was praised for its outreach, training, accommodations, creative thinking around assignments for workers and other practices.
“Spirit of ADA award winners are an inspiration and role model to all Vermont employers,” said Rose Lucenti, who chairs the Vermont Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities.
The Alchemist, which is best known for its acclaimed double IPA Heady Topper, currently employs two workers who have intellectual disabilities, and one with physical disabilities.
“It makes you have a good self esteem,” said one of those workers, Eric Greenberg of Morrisville. “They didn’t have to hire me. They hired me because I have a great work ethic and I get along great with people at the same time.”
Greenberg works in the company’s cannery, preparing trays for cans of beer, taking cans off the line, boxing beer and other duties in the facility.
“That makes our heart sing,” said John Kimmich, one of the brewery's owners, said of hearing that Greenberg is proud of the contributions he makes to the business.
He added that the company sees benefits, as well: “It’s nothing that any other business couldn’t achieve.”
“I understand there are probably lots of businesses who would have some trepidation, who would be a little nervous about hiring folks with disabilities,” acknowledged Jen Kimmich, the other owner. “But all I can say is has been one of the best business decisions we have ever made. Our workplace morale is better, our productivity is up and it just gives us a reason to keep building an inclusive workplace every single day.”
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Greenberg said he loves the paycheck, of course, but added that also enjoys the friendships and new skills he’s gained working at The Alchemist.
“I’m a lifer here,” Greenberg predicted. “I’m going to retire from them — 30 years from now, I’m going to be here.”
For hiring and retaining workers with disabilities, the Vermont Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities also honored Copeland Furniture in Bradford; the Vermont Country Store, which is based in Weston; Gardeners’ Supply, headquartered in Burlington; and Vermont Soap in Middlebury.