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Whistleblower Protections for Church Employees

Dismissing or disciplining a whistleblower can have legal consequences.

Key point. Churches that dismiss or discipline employees for reporting suspected illegal activity by another church worker may have violated whistleblower protections under federal or state law.

A federal court in California ruled that a woman whose employment at a church was allegedly terminated because of her disclosure of potentially illegal activity by the church treasurer could sue her church for violation of a state policy barring employers from retaliating against "whistleblowers." A church hired a woman (the "plaintiff") as a clerical worker, and a few years later promoted her to the position of administrative assistant to the senior pastor. The plaintiff alleged that on several occasions another church employee subjected her and others to abusive and threatening behavior, including sexual harassment. She submitted formal complaints to the church leadership, but claimed that no action ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • March 1, 2009