Pastor, Church & Law
Churches don't always think of themselves as employers. Yet this is one of the key roles a church does play. So as an employer, is the church subject to the same legal obligations that apply to secular employers? Some laws do not affect the church because of the separation of church and state. However, in most cases the church is held to the same laws as secular employers. So what is the church's legal responsibility to employees?
Protect your church from employment litigation by keeping this resource on hand to help you address these key employment law topics:
- Selection of Employees
- Discrimination Law
- Immigration Laws
- Workers Compensation
- Federal Employment & Civil Rights Laws
- Fair Labor Standards
- Termination Requirements
The employer-employee relationship is heavily regulated by state and federal law. For example, many employers must withhold federal income taxes and Social Security taxes from wages paid to employees; pay unemployment taxes, obtain workers compensation insurance, refrain from numerous forms of discrimination in the selection and retention of employees, pay the minimum wage and overtime compensation, and comply with federal immigration requirements in the hiring of new employees. In addition, employers may be sued for violating non-discrimination laws or for wrongfully dismissing employees.
Do any of these legal obligations apply to churches? After all, most churches are employers. In addition to a minister, they may employ a secretary, custodian, bookkeeper, music director, counselor, or business administrator. As an employer, is a church subject to the same legal obligations that apply to secular employers? That is the question addressed in this book. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Federal immigration reporting requirements clearly apply to church employers. And many states treat churches no differently than secular employers for purposes of workers compensation. This means that they may have to obtain insurance to provide payments to injured employees.
On the other hand, there is much confusion concerning the application of various federal employment and civil rights laws to religious organizations. For example, are churches subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion? Are churches subject to federal law banning discrimination in employment decisions based on the age or disability of an employee or applicant for employment? Can the employees of religious organizations organize labor unions? Must churches pay the minimum wage and overtime compensation to their employees? All of these questions, along with several others, are addressed in this third volume of Pastor, Church & Law, 4th Edition.
The increasingly regulatory character of government is seen nowhere more clearly than in the context of the employer-employee relationship. Churches must be aware that some of the laws that pertain to this relationship may apply to them, and that First Amendment's guaranty of religious freedom may not provide any protection.
The importance of employment laws and regulations to churches is underscored by surveys conducted each year by Richard Hammar of all published litigation in all federal courts and in all state appellate courts. The results of this research are summarized in Table 8-1 Litigation Involving Religious Organizations. The important thing to note is that employment- related litigation was the most common reason that religious organizations were in court in four of the six years examined. This dramatically demonstrates the importance of this book.