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Don’t be tempted by corporate ministry services

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Q. Since Sept. 11 and due to the economic doldrums, some of our employees have not been the same emotionally. We’ve tried to be patient and understanding, but they seem to need something else. We’ve heard that some companies are contracting with corporate ministry services. Is this practice legal or advisable? —S.S., Virginia

A. While it’s legal for private-sector employers to offer religious-based services, the practice is fraught with legal risk. We suggest you consider other options before lending comfort to workers in this way. The risk of discrimination and harassment claims is just too great. A better idea: Consider adding an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to your benefit plan. You also can provide employees with a list of private and community resources like associations, support groups, Web sites, hotlines and faith-based services. Then, consider giving employees time off to use these and other resources of their choice.

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