Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hey Fletch … A pastor here at the church allows his assistant to work overtime and then they don’t put it on the assistant’s timecard. I have warned both of them but what more can I do?

DRF—How do you spell ‘hot water’? Let me get started by saying that Churches can be exempt from the enterprise coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, there are some finely tuned rules that invoke individual employee coverage where the employee engages in inter-state commerce (such as emails, phone calls, purchases, travel arrangements). A best practice is for all non-ministerial staff who are below the FLSA wage levels to be considered “non-exempt from FLSA.” That means that wage and hour laws need to be observed. Your state may have regulations that come into play as well. 

Another issue is that you have warned the pastor of the problem. The bigger question is, “Why is the pastor not responding to you and your fiduciary responsibility to uphold the church’s policy and federal regulations?” The assistant is lying on the timecard and the supervisor is knowingly signing it. A biblical word for that is “deceit.” Instruct the pastor on these issues and evaluate their response.

You will need to have the assistant compile and sign honest timecards for the entire period of unpaid overtime. The ethical response is to pay the assistant for all the prior overtime hours, including any time and a half or double time that is required by state or federal law. Unwittingly, your church has stolen from the employee. Get an attorney to draft a release statement that the employee will sign. Pray that the employee, a friend or family member, doesn’t ask the State to do a payroll audit. Those audits look at the timecards of all employees. Irregularities can incur fines and penalties to the church.

This is a significant issue and you would do well to inform your governing board of potential church liability.