Laws that affect churches as employers

Laws that affect churches as employers

Outgoing Governor Jerry Brown approved 17 new laws affecting employers in California beginning January 1 2019. Of these, eight or nine have direct implication for churches as employers. Some will be reflected in changes to the labor law posters a church with one or more employees must post.

Minimum Wage Change January 1

Additionally, minimum wages are changing January 1, and are mandated to appear on the labor law posters. Employers with 26 or more employees must pay not less than $12 per hour (higher in several cities), while employers with 25 or fewer employees must pay at least $11 per hour. The minimum annual salary for exempt employees also increases, from $43,680 to $45,760. No employee paid an hourly wage can be classified as “exempt,” and simply paying a salary instead of hourly wages does not make an employee exempt from overtime wages. Churches routinely misunderstand this concept and fail to pay overtime appropriately.

Laws about Harassment

Several of the new laws concern sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and even acts of unlawful harassment of any kind on employees by non-employees that were known or should have been known to have occurred by the employer, and permit the church to be held liable for the employee’s damages when the church failed to take remedial or corrective action. Employees may sue the church for workplace acts of harassment or violence not under the control of the employer. It’s possible volunteers could be regarded as employees under these laws.

Churches with five or more employees (previously 50 or more) are required to provide supervisory employees with two hours of sexual harassment training, and all other employees one hour of training before January 1, 2020, and every two years thereafter. All new hires must receive initial training within the first year of employment. Another law expands the statute of limitations to file a civil action for sexual assault to 10 years after the assault or three years after the plaintiff reasonably discovered the injury as a result of assault, whichever is later.

Churches must have policies and practices to ensure that employees, members, volunteers and children are not subjected to any harassment or abuse. They must appropriately supervise employees and volunteers. If churches choose to hire or retain someone with a conviction for a sex offense, they must take measures to ensure that employees and others are not placed in harm’s way. If the person with a conviction history has demonstrated any sort of dangerous or inappropriate behavior in the workplace, the employer should act swiftly to remove them.

Churches must create an environment where employees, members and guests feel safe to express their safety concerns and are protected from retaliation. Churches are strongly advised to apply these same policies and procedures to all volunteers and to any who have contact with children under age 18.

Stay up to date

Staying up to date on these changes is one of my primary tasks. Your church’s best protection in matters concerning employees is a subscription to the “CSBC Employee Handbook Builder,” updated as often as applicable laws and regulations change. For more information, call or e-mail 559-256-0858 or

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