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.
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 2015, Jeanette Ortiz had been working for Chipotle for 14 years. She was general manager of a restaurant in the Fresno, California, area and was being considered for a promotion that would have increased her pay by $25,000. Ortiz’s hopes were crushed when she was fired.
In 2017, in the middle of a live interview with BBC News, Professor Robert Kelly’s daughter marched stridently into the background, becoming an instant media sensation. Just four years later, the intersection of work life and home life is accepted as the “new normal,” and the sight of a child wandering through the background of a live meeting barely raises an eyebrow. Most nonprofit employers understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of working—perhaps permanently—but the adaptation of policies and practices haven’t always kept up.