People often have the misconception that everyone who runs or has a leadership role in a charitable nonprofit organization is ethical and therefore treats their employees well (and certainly abides by the law). Sadly, that’s not always the case.
Even nonprofit employers who don’t intentionally treat those who work for them unfairly sometimes don’t realize that they typically have to abide by the same laws as those who run businesses for profit. This includes laws against discrimination and harassment as well as wage and hour laws. Nonprofits are not exempt from state or federal employment laws – like the federal overtime law that took effect several years ago.
Both state and national associations of nonprofits regularly provide guidance to organizations on how to remain in compliance with the law while managing paid employees as well as volunteers. This is especially important for nonprofits that don’t have Human Resources departments. Many smaller ones don’t because they don’t want to spend scarce resources on this or on other administrative expenses unless necessary.
What about volunteers?
Nonprofits rely on volunteers willing and able to contribute their time and skills because they believe in the organization’s mission. These are not employees and aren’t subject to the same laws since they’re not being paid and can choose to leave at any time without suffering any financial ramifications. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to be treated decently and not harmed.
If you believe that your nonprofit employer has violated your rights and you haven’t been able to resolve the issue within the organization, it may be wise to seek legal guidance to protect and assert your rights.