How to Pay Church Employees

If you compensate your full-time church staff on a salary or hourly basis, you should be aware of how those positions are defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Exempt Employees

Exempt (which includes most salaried positions) employees fall under one of the following three categories:

  • Executive—position responsibilities are primarily managerial.
  • Administrative—position responsibilities relate directly to management policies and require independent judgment.
  • Professional—position requires advanced knowledge in a particular field and the use of independent judgment.

Exempt employees' compensation is based on the type of work they perform rather than the number of hours they work.

It’s a common mistake to classify a worker as “exempt” in order to pay the position a salary, rather than an hourly wage. Be aware that a title alone—such as “administrative assistant”— does not make a worker an exempt employee. The employee must meet specific tests regarding job duties and salary amount to qualify. Most support staff and clerical workers do not meet the standard.

With limited exceptions, exempt employees' pay may not be reduced for partial-day absences.

Nonexempt Employees

Nonexempt (or hourly) employees are paid for the actual hours worked. Accurate records must be kept to ensure that proper compensation is given. While you can usually require a nonexempt employee to work overtime, you must pay time-and-a-half for any work done in excess of 40 hours in a seven-day week.

Overtime must be paid as “pay,” not as a promise of future time off. Employers may only offer time off if it's taken within the same week that the employee works more hours than scheduled on a given day. For example, if an employee works one hour more on Tuesday, the ministry can permit the employee to work one hour less on a remaining day of the same week to avoid overtime pay. Nonexempt employees cannot voluntarily work overtime without pay.