According to current federal law, as well as certain statutes in Michigan, it is illegal for businesses to discriminate against people for certain reasons. Certain factors, like relevant criminal records, work history and education can influence employment decisions. Other personal characteristics, including those outside of someone’s control, may not lawfully influence company decisions.
Those with protected characteristics should not have to worry about factors outside of their control limiting their employment opportunities. Unfortunately, many businesses have issues with institutional discrimination or members of their management and human resources team who intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against certain people.
Some professionals try to expand their opportunities or align their careers with their personal values by seeking work with nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, doing so does not automatically protect someone from discrimination. Nonprofit organizations are also sometimes guilty of workplace discrimination that affects individuals with legally protected characteristics.
Nonprofits may try to hide discrimination
Like most other businesses engaging in legally-questionable conduct, non-profit organizations frequently try to hide discriminatory employment practices. Instead of trying to cultivate a company culture that is open and positive for everyone, the nonprofit seeks to falsely create an impression of compliance.
They may conduct interviews with workers that they have no intention of hiring or promoting. They often advertise having zero-tolerance policies for harassment or discrimination while doing nothing to enforce those policies. They may rely on questionable disciplinary practices to hide workplace discrimination or wait until the company conducts a mass layoff to terminate someone for a discriminatory reason.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hears complaints against nonprofit organizations in addition to claims against for-profit businesses. A recent lawsuit filed against an East Coast nonprofit is a perfect example. The company had a number of workers who were deaf or hard of hearing but did not provide proper accommodations for those workers. Refusing to provide accommodations is a form of disability discrimination, so the EEOC sued the organization.
With certain rare exceptions related to religious nonprofits, most forms of employment discrimination are illegal regardless of whether a company operates to generate profit or promote social good. Taking action against nonprofit companies that violate worker rights can benefit those affected by misconduct and deter future discrimination at an offending organization.