9 Steps Church Employers Should Take to Comply with the ADA

This article originally appeared in the Church Law and Tax Newsletter by Richard R. Hammar. The introduction is by Whit Brisky, an attorney at Mauck & Baker.

Did you know that churches and religious organizations, as well as businesses, can be sued by an employee? While the rules are somewhat different for churches, most of the laws relating to employment which are applicable to businesses are also applicable to churches and religious organizations. It is also just as important for churches and religious organizations to have written employment contracts for their key employees, particularly the pastor. Mauck & Baker, LLC can advise churches and religious organizations concerning employment law and employment contracts. We also can defend employers in disputes with employees, and help both employers and employees with the preparation and negotiations of employment contracts and severance agreements.

  1. Prepare job descriptions for all employees. Be sure to itemize essential job functions. These are functions that are job related and required by business necessity. Do not list functions that will not be required in performing the job in question.
  2. Review job application forms and eliminate any question that segregates or classifies applicants on the basis of disability.
  3. Review all employee selection criteria and procedures to ensure that they (1) provide an accurate measure of an applicant's actual ability to perform the essential functions of the job, and (2) offer disabled applicants a reasonable accommodation to meet the criteria that relate to the essential job functions.
  4. Review all pre-employment tests to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled individuals.
  5. Eliminate any pre-employment medical examination requirement.
  6. Post required notices informing applicants and employees of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  7. Interview procedures and questions should be reviewed carefully. It is not permissible to ask applicants about disabilities. For example, if driving is an essential job function, an employer may ask a job applicant whether or not he or she has a driver's license, but it would be improper to ask whether or not the applicant has a visual impairment.
  8. Designate an employee who will be responsible for ensuring ADA compliance, and be sure that this individual receives sufficient training.
  9. Educate supervisory personnel regarding Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and prohibitions.

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