January 01, 2012

General Employment Law for Religious Organizations

Ann T. Stillman

Adapted from Guide to Representing Religious Organizations

  • Federal law has much to say about how religious organizations employ people.
  • Employers should clarify in writing beforehand whether a worker is an employee or a volunteer.

Religious organizations, like other employers, are regularly beng thrust into costly and time-consuming employment disputes. These disputes can result from many factors, including 1) ignorance or a misunderstanding of employment law, 2) limited funds, 3) leniency towards issues until a “problem” arises, and 4) inadequate staffing. The importance of religious organizations understanding and appropriately applying employment law principles cannot be overemphasized. Educating supervisors about employment law, and its application to churches and other religious organizations, can help avoid such disputes by eliminating one of the factors that can lead to disputes.

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