Pressure Points

For those who are listed at the home office as “congregational leaders”, you get the Reporter.  For those who don’t, click HERE for this month’s Pressure Points with Dr. Hartung.

Here is my reply :

Thank you for your September column in the Reporter. I have four points to make:

1. The District President exists to help protect the rights of congregations and workers.  If things are as the writer of the letter says, the teacher in question should immediately contact the District President.  If it can not be resolved in that way, then the Dispute Resolution process can be used.  I know of an instance where a congregation was in dispute with a worker over whether that worker was still called to the congregation or not.  While the matter was in dispute, the congregation could not call another worker to replace him.  If the congregation in this case is truly doing a Reduction in Force, then this would not be a problem for them.  If they are using RIF to try and hire a less-experienced teacher at a lower cost, then they would not be able to complete their plan by calling a replacement.  (Or if they do, it would be without the assistance and with the direct disapproval of the District President.)

2. Our synod colleges must follow this policy when a RIF occurs :

A terminated position may not be filled subsequently by another person during the next two academic years without first offering the last previous incumbent who held the position with continuing level appointment status the position at his or her last previous salary plus average annual salary increases provided to that faculty during the interim.

While, of course, a congregation is not bound by the bylaws which our colleges follow, it seems to me a very good idea to implement something like this so that no misunderstandings (or possible lawsuits) can occur.  Age discrimination is illegal in many states.  So is unjust termination.  Churches are not immune to such lawsuits, and a clear policy needs to be in place and needs to be followed.  If it is not, the congregation could be held liable by the courts.

3. Speaking to the wisdom of such an idea, a few years ago Circuit City was considered a true American success story.  Profits increased every year, even in tough economic times.  They decided that profits could be increased further if they fired all the sales staff that had more than ‘X’ years experience.  They would be rehired as new hires at a lower salary, or replaced by less experienced workers.  The company lasted less than four more years.  In announcing the liquidation of the store, the President commented that they had sought short term profits over long term stability.  I would say that a congregation which does the same will not long have a school.  Parents will notice if the experienced and highly qualified teachers are replaced with less qualified teachers.

4.  The writer is correct, this is un-Christian behavior.  It should not be so among us.


What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was that if I saw someone being treated this way at a neighboring congregation, I would do my utmost to make certain that anyone that was called to replace this unjustly terminated teacher was aware of the situation, and exactly what they were coming into.  I would also make certain that any of the parents in my own congregation who might be considering such a school would know what had happened to a favorite teacher.  If they are doing this because their heart is where their bank account is, instead of with our Lord, then speak a language they understand.  If it hurts enough, they will either revisit the decision, or be forced to close the school.  If what the writer said is correct, they do not deserve to be teaching children anyway.

By the way, many say, “I will do thus-and-such”, but then don’t.  I have a record on this one.  I really did go to bat for someone who had been “right-sized”, and made the people who did it understand that if profits is what they sought, they would not find any by this method.  Before it was over, the person who did it apologized personally to the ones affected.   So, yes, I really would do that.  It doesn’t get you elected to district boards or commissions, but I now have some fiercely loyal friends.  Guess which of the two I prefer…


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