PITTSBURGH, June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Supermarket retailer Giant Eagle, Inc. today announced that it has been recognized by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with the Freedom to Compete Award for its ongoing dedication and implementation of employment initiatives that promote fair and open competition in the workplace. The EEOC's first-ever Freedom to Compete Awards are being presented to six organizations covering a range of industries and professions including high-tech, manufacturing, insurance, retail/distribution, law, and public service. The awards are part of Chair Dominguez' Freedom to Compete Initiative, a national outreach, education and coalition-building campaign launched in 2002 to provide free and unfettered access to employment opportunities for all individuals. The central theme of the initiative is that every individual deserves the opportunity to compete and advance as far as his/her talent and ability allows -- without regard to discriminatory barriers based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age or disability. "The Freedom to Compete Award honors organizational leaders whose extraordinary efforts embody a key tenet of the Commission's goals: to ensure that all individuals have the freedom to compete and advance in the workplace on a level playing field. We congratulate our award winners and look forward to partnering with them to ensure equal opportunities for all employees," said Cari M. Dominguez, chair of the EEOC. "Ultimately, the Freedom to Compete Award is about setting examples and teaching. The best way to further the equal employment opportunity mission is to learn from one another." Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle has a 74-year history of success in the supermarket industry which is a direct result of the company's commitment to corporate responsibility as well as its ability to attract and retain ethical, friendly, and customer service-oriented employees. Giant Eagle's thriving employee base of 36,000 is routed in the company's culture and underlying belief that the strength of the organization is dependent on the success of the individual job performance of each of its valued employees. To help achieve Giant Eagle's goal to attract, develop and retain the industry's best employees, Giant Eagle partners with more than 34 community-based organizations in four states to offer employment and educational support programs to individuals with mental and/or physical disabilities. One such employee program for which Giant Eagle is being honored, Project Opportunity, was developed by Giant Eagle in 1991 with the support of Pittsburgh Vision Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Pittsburgh Public Schools. "Receiving the Freedom to Compete Award is a great honor and a testament to the value of programs such as Project Opportunity that opens doors to anyone who shares the Giant Eagle commitment to customer service," said Giant Eagle Director of Human Resources Dale Giovengo. "We are very proud of our Project Opportunity graduates and the vital role that each employee plays in our ongoing success. We will continue our efforts to create employment, professional and social development opportunities to people with mental and/or physical disabilities so they receive an equal chance to enjoy fulfilling lives." Project Opportunity identifies students (ages 16-21) in the Pittsburgh Public School system with visual, hearing and mobility challenges as well as emotional and learning disabilities. The program mentors these students through three training phases, including: * Classroom education with the assistance and support of teachers to communicate proper work behavior: * In-store training in specific Giant Eagle supermarket departments: * Permanent employment at Giant Eagle with the assistance of a job coach for those students who successfully graduate from the program. The objective of employment programs such as Project Opportunity is to provide individuals with disabilities realistic and equal employment opportunities that will help with professional and social development as well as build self-confidence and independence. As a result of just this one employee program in Project Opportunity, 315 productive employees with disabilities have found quality and long-term employment at Giant Eagle with equal opportunities for further advancement within the company. Giant Eagle also was honored in 2003 by the Department of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award for outstanding employment practices toward people with disabilities. The award recognized exemplary and innovative public-private partnership efforts that furthered the disability employment objectives of President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative. About Giant Eagle Giant Eagle Inc., ranked 28 on Forbes magazine's largest private corporations list and past recipient of Progressive Grocer's Retailer of the Year Award and the EPA's ENERGY STAR Retail Partner of the Year Award, is one of the nation's largest food retailers and food distributors with more than $5.2 billion in annual sales. Founded in 1931, Giant Eagle, Inc. has grown to be the number one supermarket retailer in the region with 140 corporate and 81 independently owned and operated stores throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, north central West Virginia and Maryland. Giant Eagle was named America's Second Harvest 2004 Regional Retailer of the Year for its support of local food banks, and also actively supports numerous community events, the United Way, The Salvation Army, Race For The Cure and other non-profit organizations. The company also has created education initiatives such as Apples For The Students, which has provided millions of dollars in computer equipment, software and other classroom learning tools for local schools and the Be A Smart Shopper school nutrition program. Further information can be found at GiantEagle.com. About the EEOC The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing the nation's anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information the EEOC and on the Freedom to Compete Award is available online at http://www.eeoc.gov .
SOURCE Giant Eagle, Inc.