Tech Startup Tosses Coin to Decide New Budget: Free Office Snacks or Disability Accommodations?

The executive leadership team was in a budget conundrum. While their annual salaries ranging from $180,000 to $250,000 were great, what really mattered were the free snacks they received as a perk. Things were going swimmingly until longtime employee Pia Sanford divulged her newly diagnosed disability and requested accommodations. This meant she was a threat, as she was jeopardizing their freebies.

“What kind of startup are we if we don’t offer free roasted Marcona almonds, quinoa multigrain chips and calamansi-flavored carbonated water?” asked CEO Jacob Brown, who called the emergency meeting. “I’m just concerned about the wellbeing of our staff,” he said, thinking about just how inconvenient it would be if the snacks were not easily accessible and he had to pay for his own.

“I know the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits us from discriminating against people with disabilities, but aren’t her competency and qualifications now compromised because of her, um, disab — I mean shortcomings?” asked Michelle Stephenson, who dreaded the idea of paying for her own organic matcha goji berry chia seed cookies. “We could just say she’s underperforming. We’re a startup so we’ve got financials to consider. Just thinking of the happiness of our overall staff, you know.”

The dollar signs racked up in Brown’s head. “It’s going to cost us an arm and a leg — disability pun intended, haha! — to accommodate her,” he said, laughter turning to outrage. “Snacks right now only cost the company about $80,000. We can’t possibly afford any cuts to that number. Maybe we should let her go, ‘cause don’t disabled people get their own perks like disability benefits when they’re not working anyway? It’ll be a win-win situation!”

As the team analyzed their financials, they realized Sanford had brought in more clients and sales than her counterparts since joining the company. They decided the only fair and unbiased way to solve their quandary while avoiding an ADA violation was to toss a coin. Heads, keep the snacks. Tails, provide the accommodations.

They held their breath as the coin flew up into the air. All eyes stared at the verdict as it fell to the ground. The room erupted in jubilant cheers, hugs and fist bumps. “Yahoooo! Snacks win!”

An elated Brown, wiping off tears of joy, asked, “By the way, what kind of fancy-schmancy accommodations is Pia asking for?”

Stephenson read Sanford’s email. “Let’s see. She said, to continue exceeding her stretch goals, she’s asking for a table lamp as an accommodation so she can see her computer better, and that she’s found one online for five thous — I mean, $5.99.”

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