If you've ever hired a family member based on your trust and affection rather than their qualifications, you've practiced nepotism. Nepotism by itself isn't illegal, but some types of nepotism can cross the line into illegal discrimination. An anti-nepotism policy can help your nonprofit grow by ensuring all employees are qualified for their jobs and preventing discrimination against non-family members.
Family Hiring Practices
Sometimes a family member really is the best person for the job. Consequently, you'll need to establish specific policies for when it is acceptable to hire family members. Ideally, these hiring policies should match your normal employment procedures. By providing a job description and list of qualifications for every job, you can ensure you only hire family members who meet your criteria.
If you hire a family member instead of another person, it could be a form of employment discrimination if the other person was more qualified. Every nonprofit needs a clear anti-discrimination policy outlining your commitment to hiring without regard for race, religion, sex, disability, age or pregnancy. You'll also need clear policies for handling claims of discrimination. It's easy to turn a blind eye to complaints about family members, but if you let a family member get away with harassing or discriminating against someone else, you could quickly find yourself mired in a lawsuit.
If your organization is run by a board of directors, your board needs to have full, accurate information to make good decisions. Consequently, you'll need to disclose whether you've hired any family members, particularly if you've nominated a family member for the board of directors. While mandatory disclosures are only required for public corporations, failing to disclose something that could affect the nonprofit could be a form of fraud.
No one wants to hear complaints about their family members, which is one of the reasons nepotism can be problematic. If your nephew is sleeping on the job, you might be tempted to ignore complaints from other employees or even penalize them for making such complaints. Ensure your human resources department has a clear policy for filing complaints and evaluates everyone according to the same criteria. You should also establish an anti-retaliation policy. Retaliation is illegal, and occurs when employees are penalized for filing complaints or lawsuits against a company. If you retaliate against an employee who complains about a family member, it could cost your nonprofit dearly.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.