By Greg Love
2020 marks a new year, new decade and . . . new liability insurance for your ministry? While this resolution may be unlike most people’s idea of a fresh start this year, it should be a priority as you look ahead to the next 12 months.
As a church, you mainly think of yourselves as a ministry —but you’re also an employer. That means that legal issues will arise from time to time, and more than likely they will involve an employee.
In fact, over the last 20 years, employee lawsuits have risen roughly 400%, with wrongful termination suits jumping up more than 260%.
Churches are not exempt from these statistics. So, this year, don’t let what you don’t know about employment law lead to devastating consequences for your ministry.
Four Common Misconceptions About Employment Law
With the risk for employee lawsuits constantly on the rise, mistaken assumptions add even more risk to your ministry. Review these four common misconceptions to help prevent your ministry from finding itself in the middle of a lawsuit.
- Our employees would never sue us. Unfortunately, most employers don’t foresee these kinds of issues, but they do happen. You can reduce the likelihood of employee lawsuits by conducting annual performance reviews and maintaining accurate records.
- We don’t have enough employees for the law to apply to our organization. Laws vary from state to state. Before assuming that legislation does not apply to you, review the federal and state laws that affect your organization with your attorney.
- We were not aware, so we are not responsible. Employers are largely held responsible for the acts of their employees, regardless of whether the employer prohibited or was unaware of the conduct.
- Our general insurance would cover us if an employment lawsuit were filed. Actually, most general liability insurance and personal injury policies specifically exclude employment relationship claims. Ask your agent before assuming you’re covered.
How can you protect your ministry?
One of the first things you need to do is get Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) coverage. EPLI is used to protect your ministry against employee lawsuits alleging inappropriate or unfair acts, including wrongful termination. It also helps protect your ministry against claims of harassment, discrimination, breach of contract, emotional distress and more.
Seems like a no-brainer to get this coverage, right? Shockingly, only 23% of organizations with fewer than 100 employees invest in EPLI coverage—leaving the door wide open for potential high-dollar legal implications.
So while you may have the utmost confidence in your employees and believe that “it would never happen at my church,” that mindset could cost you.
What’s your next step?
At GuideStone®, we know that it is not your job to be a legal expert —it’s your job to focus on ministry. So in order to help you reduce your employment practices liability risk, we’ve put together a good starting point to help you best protect your ministry:
- Meet with your property and casualty agent to discuss suitable EPLI coverage options.
- Develop a detailed screening and hiring process for all employees to follow to help protect you from discriminatory hiring practices.
- Implement a yearly review of your employee handbook and evaluate the opportunity for any updates and/or revisions.
- Require all new employees to sign a personal conduct agreement outlining behavior that’s considered unacceptable by your church.
- Make sure you’re up-to-date on the employment laws in your state. Consult legal employment counsel for fact-specific advice.
Make 2020 Different
It is our sincere hope that 2020 is a vibrant, fulfilling and God-honoring year for your ministry. Know that your friends at GuideStone are here to help you feel equipped to handle whatever happens in a way that honors your employees and, most importantly, honors the Lord.
Want to learn more? Check out these additional resources:
- Even Good Employers Get Sued: The Cost of Not Having EPLI Insurance
- Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) Claims Trends, Stats & Examples
- Employment Practices
- Ministry Workers (Employees and Volunteers)
GuideStone is a leading provider of employee benefits for SBC churches, ministries, organizations and institutions. Visit GuideStone.org to learn more about how they can help you with retirement, insurance, investments and more.
Please consult legal employment counsel for fact-specific advice.
Greg Love joined GuideStone in 2012 and serves as Director for Retirement Solutions, specializing in church retirement plan design and employee education. Prior to his current role, Greg served as a Senior Account Manager within GuideStone Property and Casualty. He holds degrees from both The University of West Alabama and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration from Dallas Baptist University. Greg holds the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠professional designation, as well as Series 6 and 63 securities licenses.
Greg is passionate about helping local churches thrive, make disciples and impact the globe for Christ. He and his wife, Jaime, have been married since 2001 and enjoy raising their two children — John Parker and Georgia Grace.