Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Church Musicians are Employees?

This past year we have had several clients question whether musicians are properly classified as employees of the church, including musicians engaged only for a special events. Two separate organizations have also reached the conclusion that musicians are employees of the organizations engaging them.

In December 2011, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that musicians engaged by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra and the Plano Symphony Orchestra are employees. In both cases, the Board reversed lower rulings holding that musicians were independent contractors. While musicians were free to decline performing in any program, the symphonies selected the music, dictated the dress, set performance and rehearsal times. In sum, the symphonies exercise sufficient control over the details of the musicians' performance to make them employees. See

Recently, the American Guild of Organists published a salary survey of organists performing in religious institutions. At the bottom of the salary survey, the Guild observed that according to IRS guidelines the majority of organists working for religious institutions were properly classified as employees. See

These two decisions reaffirm our position that most musicians engaged by churches are employees, even if they are engaged for only one program.

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