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Reviewing Your Church's Employment Policies and Practices
Reviewing Your Church's Employment Policies and Practices
An annual human resources audit can reduce any church's legal liabilities. Here's how.

Update from the Editors: An earlier version of this article stated that the ADA applies to churches with 25 employees or more. A correction has been made to note the ADA’s actual threshold, which is 15 employees or more.

As an attorney working with churches of all shapes and sizes—from newly formed "baby churches" meeting in living rooms to "giga-churches" with weekly attendance levels matching the population of a small city—I am reminded every day that the church is all about people. That includes not only congregants, but many others—clergy, nonministerial employees, volunteers, and independent contractors. It is their jobs to open the doors, maintain the steeples, and shepherd the people.

Those in charge of the church's business must recognize how to properly manage all of the people in its workforce. One critical component of this important job is to systematically review a church's employment policies and procedures by way of a Human Resources Compliance Audit (the "HR audit"). It helps ensure general compliance with employment law. This article provides a broad overview of what a HR audit should look like for a church; however, it is not intended to address the detailed application of all employment laws and regulations applicable to churches. Specific guidance should be sought through additional resources and qualified legal counsel that cover, among other things:

  • Distinctions between an employee and a self-employed worker;

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