Monday, March 16, 2015

Women Treated Like Second-Class Citizens in the Church

Mar. 16, 2015

Dear Cathy:

Do you have any info on discrimination in a Baptist Church against women?  The church believes women are to be second-class citizens. Men ministers are treated better than women and many of the women earn lower wages and other women are not even on the payroll so they receive unfair treatment and disrespect.  Evangelist, Tennessee

Dear Evangelist:

The church is a business, so therefore, they must adhere to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’ ( laws, rules and regulations.  Many churches, like other male-dominated industries, have issues with treating women ministers and other women involved in the church fairly.

If you are employed or received a paycheck from your Baptist Church then you are considered an employee.  If you or the other women in your church are receiving lower wages than the men or no wages at all even though they are doing the same duties, then that is a major problem.  The women can come forward and file an individual complaint or a class action complaint where you only need 4 individuals to get started. 

According to EEOC, there are legal requirements for a person who is thinking about filing a workplace discrimination complaint.  Most workplace complaints are filed on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age.  The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Title VII’s broad prohibitions against sex discrimination specially cover Gender Discrimination.  Gender discrimination covers both females and males, but the origin of the law was to protect women in the workplace and that is its main emphasis today. This discrimination occurs when the sex of the worker is made a condition of employment or where there is a job requirement that does not mention sex but ends up barring many more persons of one sex than the other from the job.

There are a number of special categories where employer rules have been found to discriminate due to sex.  These include separate lines of promotion or seniority for women, payment of different wages for the same work, and different pension and fringe benefits.  Employer rules barring women from certain jobs based on their marital status or the fact that they have minor children to care for, or treating women differently from men when involved in workplace affairs or extramarital relations, are all illegal.

You and the other women should sit down with an employment or labor attorney so that everyone can figure out their rights.  If you are not employed at the church, then you can be a witness for other women.  Your other option is to leave that church and look for another church home.  If you’re looking for a lawyer, try to get a referral from others in the community or check with National Employment Lawyers Association (

Volume 2 of my e-books “Discrimination 101: The Complete Guide to Recognizing and Surviving Discrimination in the Workplace (Volume 2)” - deals specifically with many issues that women face in the workplace.  It’s important that you read both books (Volume 1 and Volume 2) to totally understand your rights in the workplace along with the book “Workplace Survival Guide: How To Fight Discrimination, Whistleblowing andthe Workers’ Compensation System.”  Also check out my “Workplace Blog”

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