By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A revision in overtime regulations by the U.S. Department of Labor could impact as many as 4.2 million workers nationwide, including those who work for parishes and dioceses. The new rule, which takes effect Dec. 1, received the greatest share of attention at the annual Parish Corporate Board meetings held earlier this week in the Diocese of Davenport.
Federal overtime rules will now apply to far more employees than in the past, explained Nikki Gartner, the diocese’s CFO. “Employees should be classified as nonexempt unless they qualify for an exemption from overtime rules.” To be exempt, employees must meet the three-part test: earn the minimum salary level of $47,476 annually (with some exceptions), receive the same pay every week, and meet the duties test. Until Dec. 1, the minimum salary level to qualify for exempt status is $23,660 annually.
Nonexempt employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour worked as well as overtime pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week.
Most employees are nonexempt, but the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) includes exemptions for certain administrative, professional, executive, highly compensated, outside sales, and computer professional employees (http://tinyurl.com/hzx7845).
Gartner pointed out exemptions for teachers as well as ordained, religious, and ministers. Priests and deacons clearly qualify for exempt status. However, the definition of ministers creates some confusion when considering youth ministers, directors of religious education (DREs) and music ministers. The State of Iowa does not have case law to support the definition of minister. Therefore, youth ministers, DREs and music ministers are nonexempt unless they pass the three-part test, she said. Other employees who do not qualify for the exemption are administrative assistants, secretaries and bookkeepers.
Gartner’s PowerPoint presentation covered a host of other issues related to exempt status, including traveling on the job, doing work at home, taking a lunch hour, using flex hours and managing volunteers. One pastor in the Davenport Diocese said the new exemption rule would have a huge impact on his parish because his youth minister works many hours. He asked the diocese to consider joining a lawsuit in opposition of the new rule. Gartner said a lawsuit would be cost prohibitive and there are no guarantees a judge would rule in the church’s favor. Bishop Martin Amos said, “We’re trying to pay equal and just wages for what employees work.”
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf began implementing the new exemption rule on July 1, and Business Manager Sheryl Lackey said it has been working well. Gartner plans to set up a webinar before Nov. 1 to share more information and answer additional questions about the exemption rule.
Other topics covered at the meetings — held at six locations and connected by Internet — were corporate resolutions, the role of the parish lay director and the role of the diocesan Director of Development.
“We are 22 counties in southeast Iowa with 94 priests, 78 parishes — 49 parishes with a resident pastor and 29 parishes with a non-resident pastor — and 96,638 Catholics. All of you represent that contingent,” Father Tony Herold told the parish representatives. He is the diocese’s vicar general and the resident pastor at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.
Bishop Amos explained the makeup and responsibilities of a Parish Corporate Board. There are 78 of them, and the bishop and vicar general serve on each one. The other members are the pastor (or parish life coordinator) and two lay directors. Bishop Amos emphasized the attention to detail that corporate board members must give to corporate resolutions and contracts.
Andy Gaertner, the diocese’s new Director of Development, provided an outline of his office’s responsibilities and expressed his eagerness to visit the parishes and assist them with development needs. He briefly touched on the Annual Diocesan Appeal, capital campaigns, the Catholic Foundation, planned giving and improving parish stewardship. Concerning ADA, he said he strives to ensure that the amount of money parishes raise will meet if not exceed their financial commitment to the diocese so that they don’t have to dip into operating expenses.
Gaertner also noted that he has plenty of experience with capital campaigns and can offer parishes guidance on that subject. He’d also like to see parishes develop planned giving strategies that will encourage members to include the parish in their wills. Gaertner suggested the establishment of a Parish Legacy Society as a way to promote planned giving. He also sees room for improvement in parish stewardship through increased offertory programs, lay witness training, building on solicitation of time and talent and promoting the stewardship of prayer.