Singer/Section Leader Contracts
  • Does anyone out there who have regular paid singers in their choirs have a contract they use with the vocalist?
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    No! I would avoid contracts. In fact, in our diocese, the music director, DRE, etc. aren't even supposed to have contracts, let alone a section leader or singer.

    All you need is having to fire someone for showing up late and unprepared for the 30th time and having them try to drag a lawyer or mediator into it for some real or imagined breach of contract.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Yeah, PGA has a point. You can pay them for their services, but don't go with the contract. You can spell out, on paper even, expectations (like a job description), but don't have them sign anything official. Having paid section leaders, etc is a great idea, but for reasons mentioned above, having contracts is more hassle than it's worth.
  • What we have is essentially a job description which takes on the form of a contract and it is in need of an update so I'd like to have some samples to see how other places word certain phrases. We have to higher section leaders as employees anyway so they need to be under contract.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    OR320,
    My only suggestion/questions centers around "Has the (arch)diocesan Human Resources Office been formally contacted and any/all pertinent documents and policies been reviewed between parish officials and chancery staff?"
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,592
    Always have the Diocesan lawyer look over everything.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    I'm confused about why hiring them as employees means they have to have a contract.
  • The Archdiocese is the one who told us we need to hire them as employees and give them contracts.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,808
    Sheesh- the written contract is for the protection of both parties. It's pretty sad to think of a world in which someone considers it safer to wait till the 30th time a singer comes late and unprepared than to spell out their professional obligations at the beginning. And someone who's already gotten away with that is still more likely to make trouble.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    It is good to spell things out, including potential consequences for failing to comply with professional obligations. It doesn't have to be a binding contract, where both parties agree that the obligations are as they are spelled out in the document. As a teacher, we make these types of documents all the time and have parents sign them. The key is that they are signing to indicate their understanding of what is expected, not that they agree with it. Perhaps something like that would be better for you.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,170
    Any contract is better than no contract. If it is a professional arrangement, a contract is best for both parties. Just make sure that both parties agree to the terms. Black and White is very similar to Red and Black.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,808
    'Non-binding contract' is an oxymoron. Even an oral agreement is binding to the extent that either side can convince a court that it existed. The idea that Judge Judy would look more kindly on the party that went out of their way to avoid having a written agreement in the first place is a fantasy, to be blunt.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    Please enlighten me. What is red and black? I've never heard that before.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Richard Mix:

    Well, I have no contract (and our diocese strongly discourages them). My pastor owes me nothing and could say to me tomorrow "I've had it. You don't work here anymore." There's no expectation that I get a set amount of notice, or that I'm owed a certain amount of time there. I don't think Judge Judy or any other judge would decide that the pastor did anything wrong if he said that to me. Similarly, if I call up tomorrow and say "I've had it with you; I'm not coming in and I'm not working here anymore," there is no breach of contract.

    In other places where I've HAD a contract, OTOH, it spelled out things like a term, what had to be done to terminate it (Pastor must notify me 30 days before he intends to terminate it, etc) and that it could only be terminated for "good reason." Well, hashing out what constitutes "good reason" and whether the pastor actually gave 30 days notice or 29 days is the stuff that lawsuits are made of and the reason for arbitrators and court decisions.

    So, yeah, I think the presence of a contract does mean something.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,170
    kenstb

    Do the red, say the black.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,714
    In case that line is unfamiliar to anybody, it's from a saying telling priests how to say Mass: read the prayers printed in black, do the actions written in red.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,170
    Actually, I had it backwards. It's "Say the black, do the red."
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,808
    My dear PGA,

    I'm not a lawyer, but that doesn't stop me from countering what seems to me mistaken advice.

    If your Pastor were hypothetically evil enough to give you cause to walk out on Holy Saturday, there would be nothing at all preventing him from also alleging that you understood the customary 30 days notice applied and suing you for breach anyway.

    From his point of view, if you turned out to be a troublemaker and he fired you without notice, your being able to establish that he had a deliberate policy of avoiding written contracts would raise a judge's eyebrows at the very least, and (unless you had posted in a public forum that you had no expectations) he might find himself in serious trouble. Without writing, the binding 'understanding' is what whichever of the two parties the court believes says it is. So, you can make less work for the lawyers and hash things out the easy way or you can hash them out the hard way.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    If your Pastor were hypothetically evil enough to give you cause to walk out on Holy Saturday, there would be nothing at all preventing him from also alleging that you understood the customary 30 days notice applied and suing you for breach anyway.


    1. I think it's understood by anyone in the workforce that it is generally unprofessional and unacceptable to simply walk off the job, even when it's not a particularly busy or important day for the company, church, business, etc. This however does not stop people from doing it to make a point, but from my understanding, there is always a consequence for doing so.

    2. If there is a contract that has a termination policy stated, then yes, it must be followed or it's breach of contract, simple as that. However, if there's no contract and no policy spelled out, then there's no contract to breach. So, yes, if he had a contract that stated 30 days notice must be given, and he walks off on Holy Saturday never to return, it's breach of contract because he didn't do what he was supposed to as specified in the agreement. However, with no agreement, both sides can do what they want.

    N.B.: Some people work better with a contract. In my experience, most people are ok with doing a job and meeting expectations without having anything in writing, however there are some that absolutely have to have everything in writing, spelled out precisely for them. In many cases, it's a CYS (cover yourself) type of thing where someone wants to be able to absolve themselves of responsibility if you come knocking. The people that I have met that exhibit this quality normally have some sort of anxiety issue or general behavioral issues that relate to either 1. making sure they know they're meeting expectations, or 2. knowing what to expect from somebody else. Expectation plays a huge role in everything we do, so it's no surprise that there are people out there like this.

    3. As for implied contracts: these are difficult to enforce because there is no proof of what was said unless both parties admit to the terms of the verbal or implied agreement. If there is a disagreement as to what was in the verbal or implied contract, there is no contract.

    N.B: This may also depend on the legal climate in your state/region. In the great State of Indiana, the law tends to favor the employer, so even if you are terminated without a contract, but think it wasn't a fair termination, the fact that there wasn't a contract will automatically favor the employer (at least in Indiana).

    4. As for deliberately avoiding contracts, you'd have to have solid proof that the employer was deliberately avoiding contracts in order to circumvent some sort of other legal requirement, otherwise it really isn't illegal or improper to employ someone at will, without a contract. This is done all the time.

    I think I'd better stop at that. I'm not a lawyer either, but the above is from my specific experiences with this sort of thing. As usual, YMMV, especially since employment and contract law seems to vary by State (at least in the US).
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Yes, these things CAN vary state to state.

    I'll only say this - a family member recently had an issue in which said family member DID actually have a contract which was terminated, the circumstances under which said termination occurred being incredibly murky, slanderous and quite unfair.

    Even in THAT situation, lawyers who were consulted advised that the individual probably had no case and that employers have a pretty wide scope in which to terminate employment and that any action was likely to be unsuccessful.

    With that, I cannot imagine anything being more successful in a case in which there was NO contract, and I'm not aware of any tenet of law (although I also am not a lawyer) which specifies that there should be contracts.

    I do know that our diocese discourages them because diocesan legal counsel believes it easier to get rid of employees without one.