Why California Pastors Better Know California Labor Laws

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21 Responses

  1. EricL says:

    That’s why your church employee handbook should have a section called Employee Volunteer Time that reads something like this:

    “(CHURCH NAME) appreciates the many people who volunteer their time and skills to help the Church to be effective in our community. Our non-exempt employees are permitted by law to volunteer for ministry at the Church, so long as the ministry does not include job-related or joblike responsibilities. Such volunteer time is not paid.”

    Keep clear separation between work responsibilities and volunteer time. Work with accounting during the week then volunteer on the worship team on Sundays, that should be fine. Work in the church’s preschool all week and then volunteer in it on Sundays too, that’s going to be harder to explain.

  2. Michael says:

    Well said, EricL… I don’t think the gravity of these laws is well understood…it will be…

  3. What if by “contracting,” it simply was “we’re having an event, just show up” like the roving meal trucks that move around and gather for unsponsered meal events? Could the [church] property owner still be held responsible?

  4. Michael says:


    As I understand it, if they are parked on church property, yes.

  5. JM says:

    Recourse? Maybe? Hope so!!! Will be watching.

  6. Not an Attorney says:

    New Victor, it would be prudent to seek legal counsel just to be on the safe side, have them evaluate if the church has any exposure, to keep the church safe.

    What is scary is that So Cal/Orange Co, especially, Huntington beach, Santa Ana,Costa Mesa, is a hot bed for paga lawsuits. Ironically PAGA was born in Orange County,CA (SB 796, Authored by Senator Joe Dunn). There is an entire cottage industry of plaintiff side attorneys in SoCal that make a killing filing this types of PAGA lawsuits.

    Again I’m not an attorney and thus the information that I have shared here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you need legal counsel please seek a licensed CA labor law attorney.

  7. Not an Attorney says:

    Currently in California, there is a large number of churches with lots of non exempt folks on staff. These churches are at particularly at high risk of wage and hour violations and should consult legal counsel to review current employment practices including employee handbooks,arbitration agreements, and payroll procedures to see if they are in compliance with CA labor law. Big problem areas for churches in California include Unpaid Overtime, missed or undocumented meal and rest periods, not providing accurate itemized wage statements, and unreimbursed expenses including travel time.

    Another big problem area is worker misclassification. Misclassification is a ticking time bomb at CA churches. Many churches are incorrectly paying members of staff as independent contractors (W1099) as opposed to employees with a payroll check and withholdings. CA recently implemented new very strict guidelines that must be met to qualify as an Independent contractor and there are now huge fines levied by the state for not complying.


    Finally last but not least, the good ol’ days of the tyrant pastor firing the assistant pastor who is holding him accountable or other employees on a whim without recourse are a thing of the past. PAGA really levels the playing field for an aggrieved assistant pastor or other ministry workers who get kicked to the curb by the classic bully pastor. Firing an assistant on a whim may still work just fine in other states like Arizona or Texas but in California, if you must fire someone do it with dignity and be prepared to pay with a decent severance amount in exchange for General Release and settlement.

  8. Michael says:

    Not An Attorney,

    This is invaluable info that I’ve not seen elsewhere.
    It could save some churches a ton of grief….

  9. Not an Attorney says:

    Michael Thanks for letting me post here.

    That was my intent for sharing this information, to give unsuspecting CA churches that may be at risk, a heads up from this obscure but potentially devastating type of lawsuit(PAGA)

  10. Not an attorney says:

    A few folks called to ask if they could be jointly held liable for violations simply for allowing the Mudman roach coaches to sell food to conference attendees on church property without an actual executed contract. The basis of liability is the defendant’s knowledge of and failure to prevent the work or violation from occurring. The big question is “Did the cc conference owner/organizer have the ability to prevent the violations from occurring?”

    The take away is this, as the owner/client it is important to vet all vendors, caterers, and other sub contractors that you hire or allow to come and sell food or perform work on your property. It is critical to make sure that vendors have all their permits, licenses, insurance, and if they have employees, that they are complying with all CA wage and hour laws. Finally as the client/owner you had the power to allow a vendor to enter and do business on your property or to completely prevent them from coming on to your property to sell their products.

    This is simply for informational purposes as I am not an attorney. This is why you need to seek legal counsel from licensed attorney for legal advice if the above applies to you.


  11. Not an Attorney says:

    A couple assistant pastors in So. Cal who are considering seeking legal action against their tyrant senior pastors called me to ask a couple questions regarding the information on this post. They shared with me that they often work 70 + hours a week without paid Overtime and without being reimbursed for ministry related expenses. They shared that quite often take their meal period after the 5th hour or do not take their rest breaks which is a violation of CA labor law. When they’ve brought these matters up to their senior they just get told to remember that they are simply “working for the Lord” When they bring it up again they are told by the senior that their future ministry career is at stake, if they keep bringing up these matters. What is troubling to find out is that both of these young men have spouses and young children at home to support. They made it clear that they pay out of pocket for work related expenses and they are not reimbursed for them. They both shared that they are struggling to pay the monthly rent and just make ends meet. A few of them have shared that they actually had to go on food stamps.
    If you are one of these senior pastors you may ant to reach out to your assistants or worship leaders to address this problem and avoid a major lawsuit. Giving someone a title pastor and making them salary does not make them exempt for OT and meal and rest period worker protections/ . In order to be considered Exempt from OT and worker protections it is the duties they perform that matter. IF these men are not performing sacerdotal duties and do have the authority to fire, hire, and make management decisions they likely will not quality for the Exempt status you think they have.
    The takeaway, In California the nonpayment of wages due is considered “Wage Theft” and is punished very harshly here. Also CA labor code section 2802.(a) makes it very clear that “an employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties”. These expenses include cell phone use, mileage, travel time, supplies, and time working from home.

    Below is a good checklist to see make sure you are in compliance with CA wage and Hour law in order to avoid a PAGA lawsuit. If you are not doing all these things and are located in California you are out of compliance. https://www.cabia.org/app/uploads/CABIA_PAGAchecklist.pdf

    This post is not to be considered legal advice; it is for information purposes only. If you need legal advice, please seek a licensed CA labor law attorney.

  12. It seems like this is a Gordian Knot of questions. Here is one example:
    How would CA law treat an individual “sent out” using funds from a CA corporation, and then abused by another corporation in MT? Does the CA entity have residual potential exposure?

  13. Chlodwig says:

    @ Not an Attorney

    What you are saying about California laws is interesting. But I’m surprised that nobody here has spotted this old news story:


    Is Rob McCoy in heap big trouble?

  14. Not an Attorney says:

    Mr Priddis,
    Generally when employees are hired in California , the employer must abide by California labor law. When employees have to perform work out of state, California law should be followed since they spend most of their time working in California. The California supreme court has made it very clear that when there is a bonafide dispute between the employer and worker with respect to wage& hour or working conditions, the courts almost always side with whatever is most favorable to the employee.

    Chlodwig. The is an ad and it could potentially be used by a plaintiff’s attorney as evidence to establishing agency and control with regard to joint employment/liability. If I were any CA based church or organization that advertised Mudman on my premises, I would be seeking immediate legal counsel.

    I’m very surprised that Mr. McCoy is unaware of Paga especially since he is based in California and he also ran for CA state assembly in 2014 against Jacqui Irwin. He should know very well that many ag employers and other businesses in Ventura county are being devastated by PAGA lawsuits.

    Rob next time you run for state assembly you might want to bring the PAGA issue front and center and you may see the election results you are looking for.The takeaway, when caught between following the laws of two states and one of them is California, best practice is to go with California law.

  15. Not an Attorney says:

    Mr Priddis, Sorry I missed the other part of your question

    This is something that continues to evolve as we see more case law evolving. During 2011 we saw several high profile abuse lawsuits filed in Idaho courts which involved the plaintiff suing a California based ministry for abuse as a codefendant for wrongdoing that happened out of state. The case was dismissed and that California based ministry avoided major liability. With the evolution of the social justice and me too movements along with the RCC scandals of late, if those same cases were litigated today we would likely see a much different outcome.

  16. Caroline Hough says:

    None of the host churches “hired” Mudman or paid them to cater so they are not “employers.”

  17. Michael says:

    When a truck is parked on church property in California, the church has “agency”. They do not have to have been hired or paid to be there.

  18. Em says:

    California! I am so glad i don’t live there anymore – i am sure that i’d be in jail for something! ?

  19. Not an Attorney says:

    Ms. Hough things have changed since the passage of CA Assembly bill (AB1897)as it has expanded Joint Employment/Joint Liability in California.

    A.B. 1897 now allows for shared liability even without a determination of joint employment. Pursuant to this new law, shared liability may exist, even for an employer/entity who can show that they were unaware of existing labor violations. Specifically, the law dictates an employer may share in the liability of a contractor that fails to:

    Pay employee wages as required by California law;
    Secure sufficient workers’ compensation coverage; or
    Comply with occupational health and safety regulations.

    One of the big determinants for joint employment/joint Liability in California is “control”

    A few questions the courts will want to determine will likely be:

    • Did the host church have any control over the Mudman Trucks?
    Why didn’t the host churches tell Mudman” no you cant operate and sell burgers at this event and on our property?”
    • What did the host churches do to prevent or stop the Mudman violations from occurring on their property?
    • Why did some of the host churches endorse and advertise the Mudman trucks and allow them to do business at their event and on their property? https://thevoicecalifornia.com/december-9-outreach-event-with-potters-field-ministries-of-montana/

  20. Xenia says:

    California! I am so glad i don’t live there anymore ! <<<

    California! I am so glad I live here! It is home sweet home. 🙂

  21. Not an Attorney says:

    A friend who sits on a church board in California suggested that I post the link below explaining in a nutshell why you don’t want one of these paga lawsuits. He said many non profit organizations including churches are unware of this threat and of joint liability. He’s right.


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