Who Can Be a Volunteer?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines employment very broadly,
i.e., "to suffer or permit to work." However, the Supreme
Court has made it clear that the FLSA was not intended "to
stamp all persons as employees who without any express or implied
compensation agreement might work for their own advantage on the
premises of another." In administering the FLSA, the Department
of Labor follows this judicial guidance in the case of individuals
serving as unpaid volunteers in various community services. Individuals
who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time
basis, for public service, religious, charitable, educational or
humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation
of pay, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable,
educational or similar non-profit organizations that receive their
For example, members of civic organizations may help out in a
sheltered workshop; men's or women's organizations may send members
or students into hospitals or nursing homes to provide certain
personal services for the sick or elderly; parents may assist in
a school library or cafeteria as a public duty to maintain effective
services for their children or they may volunteer to drive a school
bus to carry a football team or school band on a trip.
However, under the provisions of the FLSA, individuals may
not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers.
As an example, several years ago, the Cimarrone Golf Club in Jacksonville,
Florida was ordered to pay nearly $14,000 in back wages to 24 starters
and rangers who were compensated with free rounds of golf instead
of pay. Recently, the Golf Club of Fleming Island had to pay more
than $73,000 to 19 individuals who were classified as starters
Although it is widely used, the practice of paying golf course
volunteers with free rounds of golf has always been illegal under
the FLSA. In-kind services can be paid only for volunteering at
charity tournaments or for nonprofit facilities, such as The First
Since the vast majority of golf courses are in business to make
money, they are defined as private sector for-profit organizations
and must comply with the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards
A company’s best defense against the potential expense and
aggravation related to federal or state law violations is to proactively
review and revise as needed their Human Resources policies, handbooks,
hiring procedures, compensation, benefits, training programs, communications
tools and other functions. The professionals of PHHR are ready
to assist your organization maintain compliance with the latest
state and federal mandates.
Paul Hilton Human Resources Consulting works with our clients to insure that all required documentation is correct and sufficient to successfully defend against a claim to any unemployment compensation commission.
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