Have you ever thought of your place of WORSHIP as a workplace? Well it is! I just did some sexual harassment (they called it sexual ethics) training at a religious establishment earlier this year and heard stories about how pastors where taking advantage of their female EMPLOYEE's. It was not overt and not the Quid Pro Quo type but it would defiantly fall into "HOSTILE WORKPLACE". One of my students recently wrote a paper touching on all the things an institution of this nature would need to know about HR. I felt his application was so on target that I sought his permission to post on this site.
What Should Non-Human Resource Professionals Know about Doing Human Resources in Religious Institutions
by Benjamin Keller
University of Illinois, Springfield
Management 431, Section B
Professor Donna Rogers
March 3, 2013
Revised: April 10, 2013
What Should a Non-Human Resource Professional Know about
Human Resources in a Religious Institution
It seems that most commonly, non-human resource professionals find themselves doing human resource management (HRM) in a small business setting. Many smaller businesses do not have a professional on staff and may not be able to afford the specialized hardware, software, or expertise to handle HR matters. Others may not even be able to afford to outsource these services (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2013, p. 206). It is vital then for these smaller businesses that key leadership, such as management, has some basic HR knowledge (Rogers, 2009a).
Although many would agree to the importance of this at least in theory, reality tells a different story. A study by Tocher and Rutherford (2009, pp. 456, 459) notes that most often for small businesses, human resource management is not really on anyone’s radar until there is an acute need. In a separate study, Rutherford also noted that “HRM problems generally precede the development of HRM activities” or in other words—too often it is too little, too late (Rutherford, Buller, & McMullen, 2003, p. 323). Churches, as small non-profit business, unfortunately find themselves in this predicament more frequently than not, or so it seems. In a recent meeting with my own church’s ruling council on this matter, few of them had thought through the implications of not having any HR policies or not being in compliance with employee rights posters. Their response, which I imagine is like that of most churches, can be summed up with the following phrase: “We’ve never thought about it and considering the implications, we’ve been very fortunate so far.” Additionally, no one had considered the possibility that if litigation ensued for negligence, they, as the church’s corporate officers, could also find themselves named in a lawsuit.
In an interview with the Springfield Business and Economic Review, Donna Rogers shares that 60-70% of employers’ cost are related to personnel expenses, mainly salaries and the cost of labor (Rogers, 2009a, 1:40). This is true of most churches and can often be higher in older congregations when assets like buildings are often fully paid for. Also true for the church as for other small businesses, the key leadership providing HRM in small business are usually individuals that have a significant amount of other duties—a pastor, for example in the church. These professionals tend to have little time and often it seems little expertise in the area of HRM. They may be an owner/operator, a manager (Rogers, 2009a, 4:50) or in many cases, a family member as Rutherford states 90-95% of small business are in fact “family firms” (Rutherford et al., 2003, p. 332). Therefore, it is important to determine what constitutes the non-HR professional must know to function effectively and to be able to anticipate and proactively address fundamental HR concerns.
To this aim, it seems that the non-HR professional needs to have at their disposal effective employment related policies and a basic knowledge of applicable HR Laws. Additionally, knowledge of the best practices available in areas such as recruiting, termination, strategic HRM, management, and leadership development can be of significant benefit. Rogers HR Consulting offers HRCI accredited training in these areas (Rogers, 2009b, 7:30).
HR Laws, Policies, and Places of Worship
Central to all Human Resource Management is applicable HR Laws. “Given the multimillion-dollar settlement resulting from violations of EEO laws… as well as for violating OSHA, [all] HR and line managers need a good understanding of the legal requirements and prohibitions in order to manage their business in ways that are sound, both financially and ethically” (Noe et al., 2013, p. 147).
As a pastoral head-of-staff, I am a non-HR professional doing HR. It should be noted that the “separation of church and state” does not make churches immune to following HR laws and policies, especially for non-clergy. However, civil courts often try to avoid dealing with disputes between clergy and churches “because it is impossible to address these lawsuits without becoming entangled in the church’s polity and ecclesiastic jurisdiction. Part of the protection of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and many state constitutions is to prevent the courts from meddling in a church’s internal polity” (Clark, 2010, sec. 6). This is known as the “ministerial exception” whereby the First Amendment “prevents civil courts from applying civil rights laws to the relationship between a church and a minister” (Hammar, 2010, p. 34). Essentially pastors relinquish many of their employee rights in their employment relationship with their churches. That said, “churches are not totally immune from this flurry of activity in the employment arena,” especially with the non-clergy staff and so it is important to be guided and informed by what is legal and ethical and what laws apply to churches and which ones don’t (Clark, 2010, sec. 6). Church personnel and employment policies can provide helpful guidance to all involved and can help minimize litigation (LCMS, 2012, p. 1).
Like all small business, churches are required to follow HR laws based upon the number of employees; however, there are two key Labor Laws with noted exceptions in their applications to religious employers:
· Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act: Bars discrimination in employment decisions based on race, color, national origin, sex or religion. It applies to churches of 15 more employees; however, religious employers can discriminate on the basis of religion (Hammar, 2010, p. 32).
· Americans with Disabilities Act: Bars discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability who can perform his or her essential job functions with or without reasonable employed accommodation (as long as it does not impose undue hardship on the employer). However, under section 307, churches are specifically exempted from the ban on discrimination in public accommodations (LCMS, 2012, pp. 3-4).
· Applicable State Laws: Additionally, some states have laws that bar employers from discrimination of employment on the basis of sexual orientation or on the basis of the use of lawful products (e.g. alcohol or tobacco) during non-working hours. However, in some states, there is an exemption for religious employers on either one or both of these statutes (Hammar, 2010, p. 33).
As the applicability of state and national laws can vary significantly for religious employers, developing HR policies and employee handbooks are important ways of helping to ensure compliance and to protect both the employee and the religious organization. These also have a number of other advantages to the organization including consistency when dealing with personnel and employment issues, clear indications of acceptable and unacceptable conduct, and protection from liability exposure (Bernstein, 2000, p. 2). The following list contains essential HR Policies to include in an employee handbook for religious institutions (Clark, 2010, sec. 6):
· Child Protection Policy (in keeping with the National Child Care Protection Act of 1993). This would also include mandatory background screening on all staff and volunteers who work with children.
· “At-will employment.” This policy is essential due to changing staffing structures within small non-profit businesses.
· Anti-harassment Policy, including sexual harassment
· Accountable Reimbursement Policies (many pastors have reimbursable accounts such as mileage and professional expenses)
· Personal use of employer’s equipment and software including prohibiting illegal downloads, viewing pornography, etc.
· Use of employee and/or volunteer vehicles
· Performance reviews
· Conduct, termination, and resignation issues including (ethics, violence, conflicts of interests confidentially, and liable and slander)
· Complaint and Grievance Process
Good policies, which address the legal aspects of HRM, can create a strong foundation for the further development and growth of an organization. These will be explored next.
In addition to having good personnel and employment policies, all managers and other key leaders should take care to follow the best practices related to HRM. Some of these include conducting an HR audit on a routine basis, confirming that personnel files have the required information and do not contain inappropriate information, reviewing records to ensure that proper documentation has been appropriately retained. This includes items such as I-9 and W-4 forms, as well as any other requisite payroll and contractual records and anything pertaining to any applicable legislation, e.g. Title VII, FLMA, ADEA, etc. Employment policies should be also reviewed to ensure compliance with current legislation (LCMS, 2012, pp. 22-26; Rogers, 2009b, 4:50). In addition, bulletin boards and “employee rights” posters need to be reviewed to certify that they are up to date and in compliance. Posting requirements for most churches include the following: The Fair Labor Standards Act, Equal Employment Opportunity, The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), The Polygraph Protection Act, Family and Medical Leave Act or FLMA (Clark, 2010, 6.A.1).
Job analysis and descriptions are of key importance to small businesses. “Job analysis is the building block of everything that human resource managers do” (Noe et al., 2013, p. 170). The business environment is very aware that accurate job analysis and specifications aid in finding and selecting the right candidates—religious institutions can learn from this. In a small business, such as churches, this work can be of significant strategic importance to help the owner/manager determine essential tasks that need to be done within the organization, thus allowing them to have the right level of coverage for these essential tasks. This can help minimize wasted personnel resources and help maximize efficiency. Job descriptions are also very useful in the church setting to provide guidance to employees to keep them accountable and focused on key tasks that are related to the strategic vision of the church. This can prove invaluable when there may be hundreds of stakeholders vying for a staff member’s attention to various ministries or pet projects—few of which may be focused on the strategic vision of the church.
O’Neil also provides some sage advice on hiring: “Never lower your standards” (O'Neal, 2011, p. 60). This advice is perhaps more important to churches than any other industry. Churches rise or fall on member relationships with the key leadership. A bad hire may mean an organization-killing spilt or schism. For O’Neil, it is better to not fill the job at all than to fill it with the wrong candidate.
Churches tend to do both performance management and termination poorly. Often due to the lack of HR expertise, employee problems are not well documented or proactively addressed. Documentation is a vital part of terminating an employee to satisfy any potential EEOC claim (Rogers, 2009b, 3:00). Additionally, memories tend to fade overtime and jury “tend to believe what they read in writing” (Moore, 2004, p. 11). The termination of church employees can be particularly problematic. Churches are tax-exempt, and in most states, this means employees are not entitled to unemployment compensation. This coupled with the significant intimacy an employee may have with church members such as friendships and sharing of key moments of life like marriage, deaths, births, or counseling, can make terminations a potential powder keg. Exacerbating this situation, many churches often do not provide appropriate performance management such as coaching, guidance or have progressive discipline procedures, making for a very explosive situation (LCMS, 2012, pp. 27-34).
Related to selecting the right employee is employee satisfaction. O’Neil points out that there are direct relationships not only between employee satisfaction and that of self-motivation and individual performance, but also that of customer satisfaction and organizational revenue (O'Neal, 2011, pp. 134, 190-191). Although employee satisfaction is key, clergy often report not feeling satisfied or do not feel supported in their positions or roles. This is a significant challenge that many denominations are just now beginning to address. As O’Neil points out that customer satisfaction is directly related to employee satisfaction, it follows that church members will not be served well until these problems are addressed.
Continuing education is perhaps the single most important thing a non-HR professional can do to better their ability to oversee HR practices. This applies to any one with HR responsibilities (Rogers, 2009c). Rogers states that even a yearly overview of HR laws can be very helpful as those can change from time to time. One example she shares was a fairly recent change in FLMA which affects the spouses of actively deployed military personnel (Rogers, 2009b, 6:25). An employer who is not up to speed on this change may not know what they need to do to comply with this new legislation. Continuing education can provide a great return on investment (Rogers, 2009b, 7:10, 9:00). For the non-HR professional in the religious setting, sources of continuing education may initially be hard to find. However, religious liability insurance carriers such as Church Mutual or Brotherhood Mutual Insurance companies, denominational offices, lawyers specializing in Human Resources or ecclesiastical law, and training organizations or HR consultants such as Rogers HR Consulting or SHRM can provide excellent resources, as can large churches that have a trained HR specialist on staff. As a non-HR professional doing HR, I can attest to the significant value that continuing education in HRM can provide not only to the non-HR professional, but also to my religious organization.
APA Style Manual from the American Psychological Association. (2013). Retrieved February 27, 2013 from http://www.apastyle.org.
Bernstein, Leyna. (2000). Creating Your Employee Handbook: A Do It Yourself Kit for Non-profits. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Clark, Martha E. (2010). Legal Resource Manual for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Middle Governing Bodies and Churches
Hammar, Richard R. (2010). Do Discrimination Laws Apply to Churches? Understanding Labor Laws: Practical Strategies to Protect Your Ministry. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance/Christianity Today International.
LCMS. (2012). Employment Resource Manual for Congregations and Districts: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod: The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.
Moore, Darren B. (2004). Employment Law Primer for Churches. Fort Worth, TX: Bourland, Wall & Wenzel, P.C.
Noe, Raymond A., Hollenbeck, John R., Gerhart, Barry, & Wright, Patrick M. (2013). Human Resource Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage, 8th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
O'Neal, Donald E. (2011). People In Organizations: What Every Manager Should Know About Human Resources. Boston: American Press.
Rogers, Donna (Interview). (2009a). Interview with Donna Rogers, SPHR part 1. Springfield Business and Economic Review. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/TeqbKDAEAKc
Rogers, Donna (Interview). (2009b). Interview with Donna Rogers, SPHR part 2. Springfield Business and Economic Review. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/MIJEpyJhTv0
Rogers, Donna (Interview). (2009c). Interview with Donna Rogers, SPHR part 3. Springfield Business and Economic Review. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/GOTecjURcV8
Rutherford, Matthew W., Buller, Paul F., & McMullen, Patrick R. (2003). Human Resource Management Problems over the Life Cycle of Small to Medium-sized Firms. Human Resource Management, 43(4), 321-335.
Tocher, Neil, & Rutherford, Matthew W. (2009). Perceived Acute Human Resource Management Problems in Small and Medium Firms: An Empirical Examination. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (March), 455-479.