A well-qualified applicant applies for a job at a nonprofit and lands an in-person interview. The applicant explains that their service dog will accompany them. The hiring manager is left with questions: Does the manager have to agree? Does this entail agreeing to permit the service dog in the workplace if the applicant is hired? Can the manager ask the applicant about the service dog in the interview? The manager just doesn’t know how to handle the situation, reasoning that avoidance is the least risky approach.
To answer that question, let’s take an example: A social service nonprofit has a very talented manager who has been with the nonprofit for several years. The manager supervises approximately 10 staff members, most of whom have at least 3 years of experience in this field and a master’s degree in social work.
If you want to overwhelm a nonprofit manager, tell them an employee has requested an accommodation for a disability, and ask them to find out the organization’s obligations. When managers face trying to navigate a confusing web of laws, a common result is to just reject the employee’s request. Nonprofits may have the best of intentions when drafting enthusiastic and inclusive policies, but these goals are abandoned when managers become overwhelmed by the process or fear of lawsuit. By breaking down the terminology used in federal workplace disability law, we hope to encourage nonprofits to navigate these issues with more confidence. This not only creates a more inclusive workplace, it increases retention and productivity, as well as broadening the pool of employees that your nonprofit hires from.
In a field study, economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan found that job applicants with white-sounding names received 50% more calls for interviews than candidates with African-American names. Forty-five percent of American workers surveyed by Gallup experienced workplace discrimination and/or harassment over a one-year period. These numbers speak a truth about racial inequality that continues to permeate American society.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): “Harassment in the workplace will not stop on its own—it’s on all of us to be part of the fight to stop workplace harassment. We cannot be complacent bystanders and expect our workplace cultures to change themselves.”