Legal Issues Regarding Rescue Mission Employees

Rescue missions are subject to many workplace. Many, howver, are not unaware of the particulars of the Fair Labor Standards Act or know that they are required to complete certain there are immigration control forms for all employes What follows is a list of employment-related legal issues that every rescue mission administrator must know something about:


Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) applies to employers in any industry affecting commerce with 20 or more employees. Rescue missions with 20 or more employees may be exempt from the ADEA because of a lack of involvement in commercial activities. Those with thrift stores and other profit-making enterprises may be subject.

The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of age against applicants for employment and employees who are age 40 and older. The top age limit for mandatory retirement has generally been eliminated. Compulsory retirement is still permissible for certain employees who reach age 65. Ministers are also subject to compulsory retirement.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The employment provisions of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) became effective July 26, 1994, covering employers with 15 or more workers in 20 or more weeks a year. The public accommodations provisions of the ADA have been effective since January 26, 1992. The ADA requirements relate to two areas:


Equal Pay

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from paying employees of one sex at a lower rate than employees of the opposite sex for equal work for positions that require the same skill, effort, and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (ELSA) adopted in 1938 provides protection for employees engaged in interstate commerce concerning minimum wages, equal pay, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor.  Commerce is defined by the ELSA as "trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several states or between any state and any place outside thereof."  Therefore, the employees of religious organizations involved in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce are generally considered covered by the provisions of the FLSA. Rescue missions that are not engaged in commerce or fall below the $500,000 annual gross sales volume requirement are generally exempt from the Act.

The overtime compensation requirements of the FLSA do not apply to certain employees in executive, administrative, or professional positions. Ministers are generally exempt under the professional provisions of this exemption. Minors under age 14 generally cannot be hired.

The FLSA minimum wage increased to $4.75 per hour on October 1, 1996 (it was formerly $4.25 per hour). It was further increased to $5.15 per hour on September 1, 1997. Teenagers may be paid a training wage of $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of employment.

Most local rescue missions would not meet the definition of being involved in commerce. However, many do Christian organizations voluntarily choose to follow the FLSA regulations as an equitable guide and as a precaution against possible litigation. The specifics of this Act are most relevant to rescue missions in that some states have more restrictive labor laws than the FSLA.)  The minimum wage rates of 13 states and the District of Columbia are tied to the federal minimum wage rate in some way. For example, the minimum wage rates in Alaska and the District of Columbia are generally $0.50 and $1.00 over the federal rate, respectively.

While the Fair Labor Standards Act does set basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards and regulates the employment of minors, there are a number of employment practices which the Act does not regulate. For example, the Act does not require

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires certain employers to provide up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees. The FMLA does not override more generous state entitlements. The new law became effective on August 5, 1993, and only applies to organizations with fifty or more employees. There is no exemption for religious employers.

To be eligible under this law, a person must be employed at least twelve months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the twelve months. Eligible employees are entitled to a total of twelve weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child and certain other reasons.

While only large rescue missions with 50 or more employes may be subject to the Act, smaller ones mayl choose to comply with the provisions of the law in an effort to improve employee morale. Even though an organization is not subject to the Act, they may have legal responsibilities to pregnant or ill employees under other federal laws (as mentioned later in this document).

Immigration Control

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) prohibits all employers from hiring unauthorized aliens, imposes documentation verification requirements on all employers, and provides an "amnesty" program for certain illegal aliens. The law also prohibits employers with three or more employees from discriminating because of national origin.

An I-9 Form must be completed and retained on file by all employers for each employee hired after November 6, 1986. The form must be available for inspection at any time. Form 1-9 may be obtained by calling 800—755—0777 or at

The Form I-551 Alien Registration Receipt Card issued after August 1, 1989, is the exclusive registration card issued to lawful permanent residents as definitive evtdence of identity and U.S. residence status.

National Child Care Act

The National Child Care Act (NCCA) of 1993 became effective on December 20, 1993. Under the law, states may designate organizations that will be permitted to obtain a nationwide criminal records check on child care workers. If your state designates rescue missions, this will enable you to quickly check on prospective child care workers by asking a state agency to conduct a criminal records check.

If you are not sure, check to see if your state does not consider rescue missions as eligible under the NCCA.  If not, you should still rely on other methods of screening child care workers in your rescue mission.

Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was designed to protect workers from unsafe conditions in the workplace. OSHA generally applies to all employers engaged in commerce who have employees. States are permitted to adopt standards of their own. Some 23 jurisdictions now have an approved state plan in place.

Rescue missions are not specifically exempt from OSHA. A rescue mission must employ at least one person in "secular activities" to be covered. A person who performs or participates in religious services is not considered to be involved in secular activities.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other workers who have a similar ability or inability to work.

Religious Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The law applies to organizations with 15 or more employees.

Title VII does permit religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion for all positions. However, religious employers may not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or national origin.

Sexual Harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 two types of conduct that can constitute unlawful sexual harassment are:

While the standards in this area are not entirely clear, certain basic precautionary steps still serve to reduce the potential for employer liability: