Legal Issues When Hiring Temple Staff
Duties of Temple Trustees
Non Profit Boards are being held to higher levels of legal accountability. The thought of being sued while doing good is an offense to many, but the threat is justified. A board that conscientiously discharges its responsibility has nothing to fear. It is not endangered by a process, which penalizes less scrupulous organizations.
To avoid or successfully defend against an allegation of negligent selection a mandir must demonstrate that it used reasonable care in the selection of priests, employees, and volunteers.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Religious organizations can discriminate on the basis of religion in their employment decisions. This means that temple can consider only persons of their own faith when hiring both priests and lay workers. Religious organizations are permitted this form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But religious organizations are not exempt from the ban on discrimination in their employment decisions based on race, color, national origin, or sex.
Immigration Reform and Control Act
Every employer in the United States must confirm the identity of all new employees and verify that they are either American citizens or aliens legally authorized to work in this country. All religious organizations are subject to these rules.
Although no one likes to touch on this issue, many religious organizations have found it an unhappy reality. Temples and temple leaders face legal liability for the negligent selection of priests, temple employees, and volunteer workers. Today several thousand allegations of sexual abuse occur annually with both Protestant and Catholic churches and the resulting lawsuits can result in astronomical judgements. Increasingly, religious leaders find themselves named as defendants in these cases. Plaintiffs allege that the religious organization and its leaders did little or nothing to screen priests or other temple workers during the selection process.
Negligent Selection–Other Cases
Temples can be liable on the basis of negligent selection in other situations besides sexual misconduct. For example, assume that a temple allows an individual to drive a number of persons in a temple vehicle to a temple function and the driver's negligence causes an accident. Persons injured in the accident learn that the temple did nothing to check the driver's record. Had it done so, it would have discovered that the driver had been convicted of four moving traffic violations in the past year. The temple may be liable for the accident victims' injuries on the basis of negligent selection.
How can temples reduce the risk of liability based on negligent selection?
• Employment applications
• Reference checks
• Criminal records checks
• No second chance. Temple managers may feel they should "show mercy" when making employment decisions. This attitude can contribute to a negligent selection claim if a temple gives an applicant a second chance despite the knowledge of prior misconduct and the misconduct is repeated.
This article only touches on the legal aspects of hiring priests and mandir employees. For comprehensive information Christian Ministry Resources is an excellent source of materials covering religious organization legal and tax issues. They can provide an employment application, interview questions, a Pinkerton Employment Verification Form (Criminal records check) and thorough up-to-date information on the legal aspects of the hiring process.
Order Selecting and Screening Church Workers and an application booklet from:
Christian Ministry Resources
PO Box 2301
Matthews, NC 28106
8:00 A.M. until 4:30 P.M. eastern time, Monday-Friday
As with the use of any employment form, a temple is always advised to have such a form reviewed by a competent attorney. Laws change on a continuing basis and vary from one state and city to another.