Is the Use of Volunteers Legal or Not Under FLSA? (Video)


Have you ever had a fundraiser or a special event? Maybe you’re going to set up a table at the county fair and exhibit your business and answer questions and collect leads. And you think, “If I just had a few employees kind of come in and help, they could take different shifts.”

“Maybe this one will take the morning. This one will take the afternoon. This will take the evening. They only have to dedicate a few hours on Saturday, and it’s for a good cause.”

“So we don’t have to pay them for that. Right? They can volunteer for that. We can put out a sign-in sheet, and they can just sign up for whatever shifts they want to volunteer to cover for us during this special event.”

No. You can’t do that at all. As good as that just sounded and as often as that does occur, keep in mind that activity in the private sector is highly illegal. Even for a non-profit organization who has a paid employee, that still may be an illegal form of volunteerism for that non-profit.

Remember, any time a person does anything that furthers the exposure, the promotion, the benefit of your business, those activities are considered to be paid hours worked. So if your worker has already hit 40 hours for the week, then that’s going to be overtime. Keep in mind, a true volunteer is only found in the non-profit sector and also sometimes in the public sector.

But in private sector employment, volunteerism does not exist. So think about that– OK– very, very carefully. That’s such serious stuff.

And even if you say it’s not mandatory and they say, “Oh, I’ll do it anyway. You don’t have to pay me,” a majority of the time– almost all of the time– that’s still illegal. An employee is not allowed to sign away or give away or waive their right to fair treatment under the law.

So by allowing a worker to do that and by saying, “Oh, we had an agreement,” we’re, in effect, taking advantage of the good nature of a worker– allowing them to allow us to treat them illegally. Keep it in mind. No volunteers unless you truly are a non-profit and you follow those specific guidelines or you’re in the public sector– city-, state-, county-type government– and you follow very specific guidelines there as well.

Remember, when the chips are down, nobody’s audit-proof. But if you work hard to obey the law, you can be audit-secure. I’m Lisa Smith. See you next time.


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