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Disclosing Staff Compensation

Should churches disclose how much their employees are paid?

Teamsters Local 856 v. Priceless, LLC, 5 Cal.Rptr.3d 847 (Cal. App. 2003)

Background. Should a church share with members the amount of compensation it pays to employees? This is a controversial question. Some church leaders view salary information as private, and refuse to disclose it. Others believe that members who "pay" the salaries through their weekly contributions have a right to know how much church employees are being paid. Those who favor disclosure of staff compensation often point to the public disclosure of compensation paid to state and local government employees. The logic goes like this, "If taxpayers who pay government employees' compensation have a right to know how much these employees are being paid, shouldn't church members have a right to know how much church employees are being paid?"

A recent case. A newspaper company in California contacted several cities to find out how much compensation they were paying to their employees. The newspaper asked for the "names, titles and W-2 wages of all city employees for the last 12 months." A government employees union informed the newspaper that the identity and compensation of city employees would not be disclosed, and that it would seek a court order prohibiting the newspaper from obtaining this information.

The union insisted that release of the employees' names and compensation would be an invasion of privacy and would cause irreparable harm. It also claimed that the salary of individual employees was considered "confidential information" by the cities. The newspaper argued that the names of city employees, and their compensation, would not infringe on any privacy interests.

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