Employment Law – What is Title VII, FMLA, and ADA?
Any church of any size will have employees. It might just be the senior pastor or it might be a staff of hundreds. As a result, the Church, as an employer, is subject to some, but not all of the various state and federal laws dealing with employment issues. While the Church is immune from some liability issues related to injuries due to negligence, it has no such immunity from these employment laws. Ignorance of these laws is not a defense. Acting in good faith or with good intentions is not enough. The Church is either in compliance with employment laws or it is not. On the other hand, if it is ever shown that a Church was aware of a particular employment law, but purposely disregarded it, there are usually heavy penalties associated with that decision.
The Church is also responsible for the activities of its employees. As the Church grows in size and scope, it becomes impractical for the senior staff to personally supervise every employee. So, there need to be written job descriptions and an employee handbook. There need to be ways for employees to be held accountable and to allow them to also make sure the Church is doing its job as a responsible employer.
Seven Questions about your Church’s employment practices:
- Do you have an employee handbook that sets out church policy on various employment practices?
- Do you have written job descriptions for employees to avoid future disputes or controversies?
- Do you have confidentiality agreements with employees to protect proprietary information such as donor lists or giving records?
- If you need to terminate an employee, is there a procedure to reduce or eliminate claims or lawsuits?
- Do you have an enforceable agreement with employees to keep disputes from going to court?
- Can your senior pastor or other pastoral staff be terminated or are they entitled to any protections not available to other employees? Does there have to be a particular reason for the termination?
- Is the Church in compliance with wage and hour laws? Many churches have been found not to be.