Employees are volunteers if . . .

June 5th, 2019 by Michael J. Lorden at Polsinelli


DOL Issues Guidance on Compensability of Company-Sponsored Volunteer Work

Does the adage “no good deed goes unpunished” apply to employers that fail to pay wages to hourly employees during volunteer events? Not necessarily, according to a recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Opinion Letter.
 
Per the Opinion Letter, to avoid a finding that an employee’s volunteer time is compensable, the employer must refrain from directly or impliedly coercing its employees to participate. In other words, participation must be voluntary and devoid of any undue influence. 

The DOL’s Opinion Letter clarifies that notifying employees of the volunteer event or asking for participation is not coercive. Conversely, if consequences exist for failing to participate, such as changes to working conditions, the employee’s time spent volunteering would likely be considered compensable, as participation would not be considered “voluntary.”

The Opinion Letter also addresses whether offering certain benefits for participation would be considered “coercive.” Critically, an employer may consider an employee’s volunteer activities when determining a bonus, without converting volunteer time to compensable hours, as long as: volunteering remains optional; non-participation is not punished; and the bonus is not guaranteed. 

Employers that wish to ensure volunteer time is non-compensable would do well to remember two things: (1) employers should not punish an employee’s lack of participation in volunteer activities; and (2) bonuses for participation cannot be guaranteed.  Employers with questions about whether volunteer time should be compensated should consult with competent counsel.

 

This blog was written by Michael J. Lorden at Polsinelli, which authors hrsimple resources in Missouri Human Resources Manual, Kansas Human Resources Manual and Model Policies and Forms for Illinois Employers. You can find the original blog post and their labor and employment blog Polsinelli at Work on their website.





Can't find what you're looking for?

Sign up for free to gain access to our complete HR Library


Free Webinar
Zoinks! Generation Z joins the workplace

August 8th, 2019 at 11:30am CDT

SHRM & HRCI certified

Related posts

Unpaid intern – depends on who benefits

You need some help with projects that are a little less than crucial and school's have students looking for some pratical experience in the working world. Sounds like a PB and J mashup no brainer, right? Hold on Hoss, not so fast, especially since the Department of Labor adopted new rules. SHR...

An intern by any other name

. . . is an employee who works for free. How do you tell the difference? Our authors at Polsinelli have the NEW list of 7 factors.

MN I gotta do what?

New and Updated Requirements Take Effect for Employers in Minnesota The last few months have brought a number of changes, big and small, to what is required of employers in Minnesota.  Here are some of the changes that Minnesota employers need to know to stay compliant in an ever-changing lega...

Summertime and HR - dress codes, office picnics, manning the grill

Miss Mannerly answers your summer HR questions Avoid a seasonal faux pas! Dear Miss Mannerly: My office is business casual -- until June. Even though we don't have a lax summer dress code, many of our employees just "assume" they can dress like hooligans. We have all the usual problems -...

Gift cards, taxes and the WABAC Machine

What Every Employer Needs To Know About The Tax Reform Law Late in 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”) and it was quickly signed by the President. The Act seeks to reform the current tax system and contains numerous provisions that may be significant to employers: He...

Paying Tipped Employees

U.S. DOL Offers Employers Relief From The ‘80/20’ Tip Credit Rule In good news for employers, particularly those in the restaurant and hospitality industries, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently reissued a 2009 opinion letter that effectively abandons the “80/20” tip credit rule.  U...

Why You Should Care About Employment Law

Common Pitfalls for Emerging Companies Founders of emerging companies are often first-time employers and find themselves having to wade through the dense patchwork of state and federal labor and employment laws. This can be a confusing undertaking that often requires legal counsel. However, th...

Workplace Christmas Quiz (this is legit and will secondarily eat up some time before you get to go home)

This blog was written by Robin Shea at Constangy, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers and our New Jersey Human Resources Manual. You can find the original on their Employment & Labor Insider blog (which is one of our favorites and is excellent).   Workplace ...

2019 minimum wage chart

Squire Patton Boggs, the author of our Wages and Hours – An Employer's Guide, put together a minimum wage chart for pretty much everywhere and anywhere. The chart, along with lots of other good stuff, can be found in the book, which in turn can be found in this drop-down menu, which in turn can b...

Holiday stew – ingredients for a happy and non-litigious holiday

Holiday stew – we all have our own recipe, but the base is almost always the same: booze, mistletoe and a generous pinch of unapproved time off. And be sure you don't have enough time to prepare or clean up. Join Gary Wheeler and Lori Mans for an hour as they provide the ingredients and know-h...

Overtime, daylight savings time and circadian rhythyms

This blog was written by Maria Greco Danaher and Hera S. Arsen, Ph.D., at Ogletree Deakins, author of our Model Policies and Forms for Tennessee Employers. Ogletree also authors our Massachusetts Human Resources Manual, Colorado Human Resources Manual, and Employee Benefits – An Employer's Guide....

401(k) plan + payroll provider = 401k good things

This blog is courtesy of Jennifer Ready at HK Finanical Services and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and can be found on the ABI website.   Top Reasons to Integrate Your 401(k) Plan with Your Payroll Provider Jennifer Ready Combining your 401(k) plan administration...

Help hiring holiday help here

This blog was written by John Monroe and Kristina Griffin at FordHarrison, which authors our "Hiring, Firing and Discipline for Employers" and "An Employer's Guide to FMLA and ADA". You can find the original blog post and their Legal Alerts on their website.   Welcome to the Holiday Season!...

Are the new DOL opinion letters like noses?

Eyes and Ears on the FLSA – U.S. Department of Labor Issues New Opinion Letters and Schedules Public Listening Sessions (US) By Jill Kirila and Shennan Harris On August 28, 2018, the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor (“WHD”) issued four new opinion letters inte...

I've changed my name – to Optimus Prime

So say an employee, let's call him, for purposes of this exercise, Scott Edward Nall, walks into your office to let you know he has changed his name to Optimus Prime.  Do you: snicker and ask him if his Laser Axe Hand is really made of energy wonder why he isn't riding a dinosaur fall t...

Should you give your employees a little Slack – or do they have enough already?

Are Your Employees “Slackers”? How Employers Should Handle Slack—The Increasingly Popular Instant Messaging Application Launched in 2014, Slack is the fastest growing business application in history. For those unfamiliar with this piece of technology, Slack is a cloud-based “team collaborati...

Bet employers must make: call and raise your minimum wage

July 1 saw a number of states and localities raise the minimum wage, so our author Ogletree Deakins put together a chart for those of you who don't want to pass and go bust.  FYI – poker will be eligible for review for becoming an official Olympic sport.

The six step DOL audit polka

If an employer is being audited by the US Department of Labor (DOL), there are several steps the employer can take to proactively prepare for and ultimately defend its practices:  1. Review immediately and react to the audit request. Carefully review the DOL’s audit request and promptly advise...

Non-exempt employees – what counts as wages?

This blog is an excerpt from our book Wages and Hours – An Employer's Guide by Jill S. Kirila, Meghan E. Hill and Shennan Harris at Squire Patton Boggs. For more information, go to the Products tab above and click on "Federal" to subscribe.   Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), “wage...

Remote workers and the remote control

Remote workers and telecommuting Millions of employees work during normal business hours from a home office with the support of computers, Internet, faxes, telephones, smartphones and tablets. From 2008 to 2014, the percent of employers allowing telecommuting on a regular basis rose from 23%...

Punch clock

Dear @Littler: If we replace our punch-card timeclocks with a biometric system, are we obligated to provide a punch-proxy for employees? https://www.lexology.com/library/detail

Year-end or holiday incentives

Year-end or holiday incentives – you need to know the rules: … First rule: make the winner penguin-happy.  

It’s only a matter of overtime

Have your employees been going the extra mile lately? What if they’re clocking in the equivalent of a marathon in hours? If you’re looking over your timesheets and notice that your star employee racked up a whopping 55 hours last week, it’s time to get familiar with the legal requirements of over...