Contact Mazarine: 512-763-5161

This is Habitat, Bitch!


So, recently, I was looking at the CNRG digest, which, should you want to know nonprofit happenings in Oregon, is an excellent thing to subscribe to. I saw that a Habitat is looking for a new development director. “That’s nice,” I thought. “I wonder if the description fits anyone I know who is looking for work?”

And then I saw the description. Habitat is blah blah blah, duties are blah blah blah, oh, BY THE WAY,

Note: This job description is intended as a guideline only, and does not limit in any way the duties or responsibilities of any employee. Nothing herein shall be construed as a contract of employment, expressed or implied. All employment is terminable at will, with or without cause.

This little phrase was also in each section of the “duties” and other sections, and I just thought, huh, there’s no reason for it to be there, UNLESS the person posting it is trying to tell us something? Hmmmmm. I think they might be.


Then I stepped back and checked myself. I said, well, maybe OTHER national nonprofits also include this language. Maybe this is, in fact, the new standard language in HR. So I took a look at Nature Conservancy’s job descriptions, and MercyCorps’ job descriptions. Did it include this language?

No. No it did not.

Then I stepped back and checked myself again. Maybe, I thought, maybe each state has automatic at-will employment so these nonprofits don’t NEED to put this language into their job descriptions. But this is not the case.

At-Will employment is NOT expressly IMPLIED in many states, and in certain states, you really do have to have a good reason for firing someone.


What can you do if you have at-will employment? Is there any way that you can get protected as an employee? Check out Can My Boss Do that. What I’ve gotten from this site is that you do have certain rights, even if you are not in a union. But you ESPECIALLY have rights if you’re starting to build a union.

canmybossdothatNow, I happen to know Habitat does some good work. They help people get housing! It would be an honor to fundraise for them. I really think so. But under these conditions? At will? Terminated for absolutely no reason? No thank you! That is not a happy work environment. Some people say you have nothing to fear if you just do your job. But that was not true, twice, for me, even with bringing in hundreds of thousands more than they had made the previous year. At-Will Employment SUCKS!

In my experience, if your nonprofit employer wants to have an at-will contract, it basically means you can’t trust them. And if you want even more protection, forming a union might be in order. Should you form a union now? What are the steps to forming a nonprofit union? This was answered by a lawyer on this forum.

So, it’s Habitat Bitch! Want to work there? Are you sure?


Want more posts on starting a nonprofit union?

A Fundraiser’s Union?

Are you encouraging a culture of destitution?

Are you in a union? What is your experience in the union? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments!

4 responses on “This is Habitat, Bitch!

  1. Steve says:

    Hi Emily,

    I saw your first comment and wanted to say, you can quit whenever you like, at-will or not! That’s always your right. What at-will means is, the employer needs no reason to fire you, none at all. As a for-example, there was recently a news story about a dentist who fired one of his office workers because she was “too attractive” and could tempt him to cheat on his wife. On what planet is that a good reason to be able to fire someone??

    And, you’re right, it’d be nice to have some savings set aside, but more and more, that’s difficult to do. Here’s a NY Times article I saw recently that goes into greater depth on that:

    Personal responsibility is important, but it’s not the only answer to a good is having a society (political, legal, economic system, etc) that isn’t so fervently stacked against us.

  2. Emily says:

    I agree that its firmly stacked in favor of the employer. I find it ironic that even though we ask for money, we are very hesitant to negotiate salary, moreover, demand better salary. We can quit any time we want to, yes, but frankly, its our own fault for not having that money in the bank to fall back on, that’s why we need to stop hesitating, start negotiating for what we’re worth. I read a great book by Mika Brzezinski, yes she’s a die hard conservative, but she had some great advice in her book “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth.” Thanks to her insight and advice, I negotiated a 15K raise. It can be done!

  3. Mazarine says:

    hi Emily!

    So happy you got out of those bad bad situations! Ugh! :(

    I appreciate you mentioning how easy it is to quit. It’s just that usually, for most people, because they earn so little, they don’t have enough money saved to quit.

    Have you ever heard of an employer trying to sue an employee for quitting, even before at-will employment became the norm?

    It’s, like… unheard of. This is what makes me think the deck is stacked firmly in favor of the employer, not the employee.

    What do you think?


  4. Emily says:

    I completely agree with you, but however, in an at-will employment state, the employee can terminate his or her employment just as quickly as the employer can. I’ve gotten myself in situations as a DOD that the non-profit has lied or the ED turns out to be a bully (one gave me an ulcer!) and I just quit, no notice, nothing. And because, its an at-will state, they can’t say anything about it.