Is your ministry protected against 3 common employee liability disputes?


Employment lawsuits by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) increased by more than 50% — and that’s just for discrimination cases.1 The potential for lawsuits relating to the violation of employees’ rights, known as Employment Practice Liability (EPL) cases, makes it paramount to understand how a lawsuit could impact your ministry and what you can do for protection. Guard your church with tips for three common employee disputes:

  1. Employee benefits
  2. Unlawful termination
  3. Sexual harassment
1. Employee Benefits Liability

An error or omission in administrating a benefits program — whether intentional or accidental — can lead to a lawsuit. Employee benefits liability (EBL) insurance can protect employers in these incidents.

Example scenario: An employer offers employees full salary benefits, including medical, dental, vision coverage and a retirement plan. However, the employer fails to advise a new employee of these available benefits, so they never sign any documents to elect the coverages. The employer is now at risk of getting sued by the employee once they realize they missed out on enrollment.

Tip: Always be upfront with employees about benefit options and required document signatures. This will protect not only the employee but also the employer. Also, it is the employer’s responsibility to communicate employment status and its impact on taxes — whether they are a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor.

2. Unlawfully Terminated Employees

Terminating an employee is never an outcome you would hope for, but sometimes it is necessary. Having proper procedures in place before an issue arises is one of the best defenses against employee liability claims of wrongful termination.

Example scenario: An employee is terminated from their position at church. The reason for the termination is unclear due to a lack of communication. The employee speculates and comes to their own conclusion for the cause of termination. Ultimately, he or she feels discriminated against and decides to file a lawsuit against the church.

Tip: Develop well-defined expectations for employment, behavior and grounds for termination before hiring. Communicate with employees clearly and regularly regarding concerns about performance and document all employment information, including background checks, performance evaluations, incident reports and consequences.

3. Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Sadly, sexual harassment is a common issue in the workplace, evidenced by more than 27,000 charges filed with the EEOC over a four-year period.2 It’s critical to develop policies and enforce them promptly for all reported incidents.

Example scenario: A male staff member inappropriately jokes with a female staff member at a church. The joke is not received well, and the female staff member reports the incident to her manager. The manager does not think the joke was ill-meant and chooses to let the incident slide, not wanting to make waves. Feeling violated, unheard and unprotected, the female staff member takes the matter to court.

Tip: Have protocols for all incidents involving managers, staff members or volunteers. Implement ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination training so that every employee knows what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Ensure managers enforce these policies to help prevent incidents and provide appropriate steps for reporting and responding to incidents.

Is Employment Practice Liability (EPL) insurance different from workers’ compensation?

EPL insurance isn’t the same as workers’ compensation insurance. While EPL covers cases involving discrimination, sexual harassment, defamation, failure to promote and breach of contract, it does not cover work-related bodily injury or illness.

Have you ever completed a risk assessment for your ministry?

Proactive measures can go a long way in protecting your ministry and its people against harmful employee liability issues. For a risk assessment or more information, contact us at or (214) 720-2868, Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT and Friday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Readers should use this article as a tool, along with best judgment and any terms or conditions that apply, to determine appropriate policies and procedures for your church’s risk management program.