Labor Laws

  • August 28, 2017 3:45 AM
    Message # 5051981

    This is a repost from a recent peer-to-peer post from the former NOVAA site. Reposting so the conversation can continue!


    Posted by: Heather Cupples


    Our organization once had a robust volunteer program, but, due to a significant amount of turnover, we're essentially starting over.  Unfortunately, we're having a very difficult time convincing our HR department and Risk Management team that having volunteers is not only legal, but beneficial. Their biggest concern is the labor law that there can't be a volunteer for a position that could be paid. I've been doing some digging, but can't find the actual law. So, my questions are:

    • Can someone point me in the direction of this law?
    • How does your organization work around this law?

    I've been writing position descriptions, but would like something a little more concrete to present to them.

    Thank you!


    Response: Margaret Gunther

    Hi Heather,

    The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division has a Fact Sheet #71 that outlines "Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act" which you may find helpful. Here is their web address:


    Response: Liza Dyer

    Hi, Heather! Sorry to hear you need to start over with getting buy-in for volunteers at your organization. 

    I found the fact sheet from the Department of Labor on engaging volunteers, which you may have already found. Here's the bit about volunteers:

    The FLSA recognizes the generosity and public benefits of volunteering and allows individuals to freely volunteer in many circumstances for charitable and public purposes. Individuals may volunteer time to religious, charitable, civic, humanitarian, or similar nonprofit organizations as a public service and not be covered by the FLSA. Individuals generally may not, however, volunteer in commercial activities run by a non-profit organization such as a gift shop. A volunteer generally will not be considered an employee for FLSA purposes if the individual volunteers freely for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, and without contemplation or receipt of compensation. Typically, such volunteers serve on a part-time basis and do not displace regular employed workers or perform work that would otherwise be performed by regular employees. In addition, paid employees of a non-profit organization cannot volunteer to provide the same type of services to their non-profit organization that they are employed to provide.

    A few more resources:

    This is a great topic for discussion and I hope more NOVAA members have resources and experiences to share here. Best of luck, Heather!


    Response: June Bass

    Hi Heather,
    I would as a resource I would be happy to talk to you and/or your HR and Risk Managment team. I oversee the Library's volunteer program that engages over 2,000 volunteers annually. Our division is under HR and we work with them closely on many of the issues you have outlined. In addition, the most of Library staff are part of the union and we are able to make it work to engage community members to help all of us deliver our mission.

    Let me know if you would like to talk,

    June Bass


    Response: Stephanie Bolson

    I second June's comment.  I also engage volunteers in a union environment and work very closely with our HR and Risk Management Departments to ensure appropriate use of volunteers.  I would be happy to participate in any conversationns.


    Response: Wendy Hayes

    Hi Heather,

    Here is a link with some information you may find helpful.

    It sounds like you have some good people to talk to. Good Luck!

    Wendy Hays
    RSVP Clackamas County


    Response: Heather Cupples

    Wow, this is really great information! Thank you! And thank you for the offers to talk. My other "hats" are taking priority right now, but I'll talk to my director and revisit the offers when the volunteer program hat is back on.

    Thanks so much!


    Response: Heather Cupples

    Hi all, I'm finally able to get back to this in a meaningful way.

    We've since engaged a volunteer to help build the program. Meghan Hill had applied for our HR manager position, but decided she would rather be involved in a volunteer capacity. Meghan has been reaching out to folks for more in-depth info, and she asked if I could gather contact info for anyone who is willing to share their experience.

    If you would be willing to chat, send me an email, and I'll put her in touch.

    Thank you!

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