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Undertake an analysis of your nonprofit's diversity, inclusion and equality policies

It might be the right time for your nonprofit executives to conduct a human resources audit or an analysis of the state of your HR practices. Diversity and equal employment opportunity policies are a good place to start.

Diversity, inclusion and discrimination

Below is a very helpful checklist that leadership can review to analyze your nonprofit’s diversity and inclusion preparedness. Equity and inclusion are critical components of making your workplace a safe place to work – one of the first responsibilities of nonprofit leadership.

If your answer to any of these following checkpoints is “no,” you are not providing the guidance and policy your nonprofit needs in this area. These policies and procedures must be written and made available to all employees, consumers and volunteers. Ask the following questions to start:

  • Is there a policy on diversity and inclusion?
  • Are there clear policies on discrimination in hiring, workplace behavior and protection and firing?
  • Are employees trained on diversity and inclusion?

Workplace discrimination

The U.S. government has clear legislation and mandates regarding the definitions of, and penalties for, discrimination in the workplace. Ensure all of your diversity, inclusion and anti-discrimination policies adhere to government requirements, and be aware of any additional laws your state may have regarding diversity and nondiscrimination.

  • Are employees trained on general discrimination issues?
  • Are managers trained in avoidance and treatment of discriminatory practices?
  • Are employment practices in compliance with anti-discrimination laws?
  • Are labor laws related to discrimination and employee rights actively monitored? How often and by whom?

Find guidance on the writing of these policies at UCLA's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion site, which has blogs, videos and policies. Also check out the Society of Human Resources Management, with resources and tools for "fill in the blank" templates for creating inclusion and cultural competency policies.

Employees or volunteers who are minors

Many nonprofits employ minors in special programs designed to provide specialized training, addressing community problems or workplace experience.

Whether acting as volunteers, interns or employees, minors have special protections guaranteed by federal and state laws. As part of your risk management planning, your nonprofit must develop strict policies regarding the conditions under which minors might participate.

The U.S. Department of Labor provides some excellent resources to assist you in understanding the unique protections afforded minors and the policies and procedures to which your nonprofit must adhere. You should also familiarize yourself with the Fair Labor Standards Act and be aware that failure to adhere to these standards carries serious potential penalties.

Employee or volunteer grievances

As much as you attempt to provide policies and practices to protect your employees and volunteers, you will likely need to manage an occasional grievance from someone. Carefully thought out, researched and documented grievance policies and procedures will go far in protecting your employees, interns and volunteers, and will minimize risk and penalties associated with grievances expressed by members of your mission-delivery team. Confirm the following:

  • Is there a grievance policy?
  • If so, is the policy clearly communicated to employees?
  • Is investigation of a grievance required within a specific number of days? (A common timeframe is five business days.)
  • Are grievances appropriately documented and retained?
  • Is retaliation against employees who pursue grievances prohibited?

In general, it is helpful to encourage your team members to feel comfortable in airing a grievance without retribution. Research shows that most individuals with a workplace grievance are happy to resolve that grievance when they are heard, the situation is positively addressed and there is an apology offered that is sincere and immediate.

Apologizing can help stop legal disputes before they start and sometimes "that an employer’s genuine, heartfelt apology frequently helps to resolve a case for much less money than the plaintiffs initially demanded or sometimes for no cash at all."

Negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation all have their benefits and may be needed in some circumstances. Your commitment to creating a workplace atmosphere that is truly open to commmunication, response and modification may be a preventive dispute resolution tool but does NOT replace or negate the need for written grievance resolution policies and procedures.

Accommodations for those with special workplace needs

There are several questions you need to ask yourself when analyzing your nonprofits willingness to accommodate those employees with special needs.

  1. Do you have written policies and procedure related to your nonprofit’s complete compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)?
  2. Are accommodation request forms available and in compliance with relevant laws?
  3. Is there an accommodation process for leaves or other circumstances that fall under provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or its amendments?
  4. Does the organization follow a timely, good faith process with employees and applicants who have known physical or mental conditions (in accordance with the ADA and its amendments)?
  5. Does your nonprofit comply with both the letter of the law and the spirit of accommodations?

On this last point, the spirit and commitment you show when accommodating an individual with a hearing, motor or vision impairment, and chronic disease or ADHD, for instance, can be understood by leadership as expensive, time-consuming and sometimes downright inconvenient. Understand the value of accommodating those with special workplace needs.

Inclusion and accommodations benefit the workplace

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, “Leading Practices on Disability Inclusion”, found that hiring people with disabilities is good for the bottom-line and includes case studies from companies such as 3M, PepsiCo, Merck and AT&T. And the Job Accommodation Network notes that "workplace accommodations not only are low cost but also positively impact the workplace in many ways.” This report found that more than half of requested workplace accommodation cost absolutely nothing for the companies to implement. Some examples of these accommodations include scheduling flexibility, allowances in dress code rules or allowing somebody to sit (or stand) when other positioning is customary.

Employers reported that providing accommodations resulted in such benefits as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity. The report also found that other accommodations had an average cost of $500. How much is that cost compared to the cost of employee turnover? It is clearly much less expensive to provide the accommodation than to have an employee leave.”

Complu with the law and create policies and procedures that provide accommodations for those that need them. Go further and educate yourself and your staff on the benefits such accommodations reap for not only the specific employee but for your nonprofit workplace.

One final note on documentation

Federal and sometimes state laws require mandatory workplace posters, easily accessible, updated and appropriately displayed, that document your adherence to all state and federal HR requirements. If you have the correct policies but do not state your adherence, you could still be in violation of the laws governing employee rights. The Department of Labor provides free electronic copies of the required posters, some of which are available in languages other than English. Check out federal workplace poster requirements here.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.




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