Vulnerable Trust Positions, Power Relationships and Employee Relations in a Faith Organization 

Vulnerable Trust Positions, Power Relationships and Employee Relations in a Faith Organization 

By Ken Hall, President of Robertson Hall Insurance 

It is important now, more than ever, to ensure that your organization is protected by implementing an effective anti-harassment policy. Doing so can assist your organization in recognizing and responding to unlawful behaviour and helping to prevent it from reoccurring. 

When a manager, leader, co-worker or other third party is the harasser, an employer is generally liable if the victim can prove that the employer: 

  • Knew or should have known about the harassment; and 
  • Failed to take prompt remedial action. 

Implement an Anti-Harassment Policy. Employer organizations cannot turn a blind eye to harassment, and a good starting point is to implement an anti-harassment policy for which all employees (and board members) are required to sign an acknowledgement. Sexual abuse is about the “abuse of power” – including spiritual abuse in a faith organization. Due process for both the accuser and accused is critical in a just resolution for all concerned, including the reputation and testimony of the organization. 

Training. Next, employer organizations should provide harassment training sessions for management and non-management employees. Training sessions should explain the law of harassment, the organization’s policies and the consequences for violations. 

Investigating and Correcting Unlawful Behaviour. Last, but certainly not least, employer organization should promptly investigate and take remedial action in response to observations and complaints of harassment. Companies should ask employees to complete a written complaint form and submit all evidence of the alleged wrongdoing. While the investigation is ongoing, the board and management should avoid making statements that could be perceived as pre-judging whether wrongdoing has occurred. 

Employment Practices Liability Insurance Coverage. Insurance companies covering charity & not-for-profit organizations offer Directors and Officers Liability coverage. However it is important for organizations to make sure that their policy includes Employment Practices Liability coverage, which not only includes Wrongful Dismissal coverage, but also defense and indemnity of claims for employment related humiliation harassment and discrimination. 

A Quick Overview of Plans & Policies Needed in Faith Organizations 

1 Staff and volunteer workers in a trust position of leadership, guidance of supervision in programs, ministries and events with minors (i.e. Children and Youth under 18 years of age) and with Vulnerable Adults.


Note: Vulnerable Persons are defined as any person because of age, disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, is in a position of dependency on others, or who is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person of trust or authority. 

2 Ministers, pastors, elders and counsellors in a trust position of leadership providing guidance and advise to members, adherents or others within the context of a religious counselling, pastoral insight, prayer ministry or spiritual shepherding relationship, including confidential counselling relationships. 


Note: Individuals seeking counselling for personal matters including marriage counselling, grief counselling, crisis counselling, etc., are deemed by civil courts and provincial professional health practitioners acts to be Vulnerable Persons. ANY physical, sexual or intimate non-professional relationship developed during such counselling is deemed to be an abuse of trust and authority by the counsellor, not a relationship between consenting adults. 

3 Ministers, Executive Directors, Directors and Officers, Deacons and Elders who employ and/or have supervisory power in hiring, managing, disciplining and terminating employees or ministry leaders (paid or unpaid). 


4. Staff, members or board member relationships within an organization with others of equal or comparable positions and power. 



Resource Links 

  • For more information on Abuse Prevention, Church & Charity Protection Plus Members can access the information in the Ministry Leadership Resources – Click Here
  • Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) HR Resource – Click Here 
  • Canadian Human Rights Commission – Click Here 
  • Carters Professional Corporation – Click Here 
  • Ministry of Labour – Click Here 

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