Can my employee volunteer time to my non-profit organization or an event sponsored by the employer?
For an exempt employee, ABSOLUTELY! There are no concerns regarding payment for an exempt employee under the FLSA, and they can actually be required to assist as part of their job, if it is part of their position.
For non-exempt employees….MAYBE. Under the FLSA, a non-exempt employee must generally (depending upon your State) be paid time and one half their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of forty in a workweek. The question becomes, does time spent by an employee volunteering their time to their organization (or event) count as hours worked?
In Opinion Letters issued by the Department of Labor some general guidelines were issued to eliminate the confusion of payment for “bona fide volunteer efforts for charitable purposes”. In general, volunteer status can be met when the following criteria is met:
- Designation of “volunteer” status is not done unilaterally by the employer and it is truly a voluntary act with no coercion by the employer in an attempt to avoid minimum wage or overtime requirements;
- The volunteer time must be for a civic, charitable, or humanitarian purpose without any promise, expectation or receipt of compensation by the employee (though a nominal fee may be provided);
- The employee’s volunteer activities cannot not be similar to the job they perform as part of their regular employment; and
- The volunteering must be performed outside the employee’s normal work hours.
IF a non-exempt employees meets this criteria and are willing to volunteer it may be best to have them sign a volunteer agreement – just so there are no concerns down the line. Remember…that employee may be happy to do it now but when they get mad later, you could have quite a mess on your hands, even if it was determined to be voluntary.
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