Holiday "Volunteer" Services Might Be FLSA Employment

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The holiday spirit moves many to volunteer for activities of a benevolent nature. An organization to which such individuals donate services should consider the possibility that they might be "employees" under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Getting this wrong could result in liability for back-wages, child-labor penalties, and other remedies.

General Principles

The U.S. Labor Department says that, under certain circumstances, the FLSA permits people to donate their time as non-employees for humanitarian, religious, charitable, or other public-service reasons. However, the person must do this on a genuinely voluntary basis and without expecting or receiving wages. DOL has also said that, in all but "rare" situations, its policy is to limit volunteer status to qualifying activities for non-profit entities.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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