Minimum Wage Law and Private Schools

A court concluded that the minimum wage law applied to a church-run school.

Church Law and Tax 1991-11-01 Recent Developments

Employee Relations

A federal appeals court concluded that the federal minimum wage law applied to the staff of a church-operated school. A church in Little Rock, Arkansas, operates an elementary and secondary school that utilizes a self-study program that teaches all subjects from a biblical point of view. The school is an integral part of the church. Each class has a supervisor who is assisted by a classroom “monitor.” Both work with the children but do not conduct formal classroom instruction. Supervisors grade papers, answer students’ questions, conduct prayer, and counsel the students. Monitors perform duties equivalent to teachers’ aides in the public schools. The school requires that all supervisors and monitors be “born again” Christians. Supervisors receive compensation of $125 per week ($3.29 per hour for a 38-hour week), while monitors receive $100 per week ($2.63 per hour for a 38-hour week). The Department of Labor charged the church with violating the federal minimum wage law (Fair Labor Standards Act), and sought back wages of some $23,000 for 18 current and former supervisors and monitors. A federal district court upheld the government’s position, and the church appealed. A federal appeals court agreed that the federal minimum wage law applied to the school’s employees, and it upheld the award of back pay. It emphasized that the minimum wage law specifically applies to church-operated school employees, and it rejected the suggestion that the supervisors and monitors were exempt from coverage on the ground that they are “ministers.” The court relied heavily on another federal appeals court ruling in Dole v. Shenandoah Baptist Church (discussed in detail in previous issues of this newsletter). DeArment v. Harvey, 932 F.2d 721 (8th Cir. 1991).

Fair Labor Standards Act

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