When creating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Congress did not want to discourage people from volunteering for civic, charitable, or humanitarian causes. Instead, it wanted to prevent the abuse of minimum wage or overtime requirements through coercion or undue pressure upon individuals to “volunteer” their services.
The FLSA defines a volunteer as an individual who performs hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered.
Individuals are considered volunteers when they offer their services freely and without pressure or coercion from an employer. There are no limitations or restrictions on the types of services private individuals may volunteer to perform for public agencies.
Individuals are not considered volunteers if they are employed by the same public agency to perform the same type of services as those for which they propose to volunteer. For example, a county nurse cannot volunteer nursing services for that same county.
According to the FLSA (29 CFR 553.106), volunteers may be paid expenses, reasonable benefits, and/or a nominal fee for their services without losing their status as volunteers. A volunteer may receive:
To determine if an individual will lose their volunteer status under the FLSA, the total amount of payments (expenses, fees, benefits) must be examined in the context of the economic realities of the particular situation.
Colorado counties rely on volunteers to perform a range of tasks. Counties should know the rules for when a volunteer can be compensated so a volunteer’s status does not crossover to an employee under Federal and State law. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861 0507.
A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.
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