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Human Resources/Forced Volunteer at work.


Can a employer demand 16 hours of volenteering per year? They don't care where you volenteer at. They want us out in the community.


The short answer is YES an employer may  demand an employee or group of employees  "volunteer" their time for 16 hours per year.....    but....    in your example the employee MUST be paid for this time.

What you explain is a common misconception about volunteering.  Depending on the situation, volunteers may be required to receive pay as work time paid by their employer or not.   Note the differences below:

In a case where an employer wants to get their employees in the public eye to serve at a soup kitchen,  set up a coat drive, or any other activity coined as volunteering--  AND  the employer "demands" employees spend XX hours and the employer will monitor attendance and scheduling of the volunteer activity and the employee will likely suffer adversely if they refuse-- like no pay raise, poor employment review, or maybe even get fired because they did not show up to volunteer,  then this is  work time.   If the employer does not pay the volunteer under these conditions it is likely a wage and hour violation for not paying for work time.  Salaried people can be forced to volunteer, cut grass, clean windows, work 75 hours a week, etc.  and their salary will cover the extra volunteer time or work time according to the FLSA.   Hourly employees should be told to add this volunteer time to their normal work week for purposes of pay and overtime.    So, if you are being paid to volunteer,  then best you can do is go and enjoy it.

Some employers also require employees to "volunteer"  for training  or events the Employer sets up for their own publicity.   For example, assume the counter tellers at a local credit union are told in a meeting,  "This weekend on Saturday we need five volunteers to cover a trade show where we will have a booth set up from noon to five pm.  The proceeds will go to  a local college.."    #WORK TIME#  If it is forced training or volunteerism, it should be paid time for hourly employees,   would not apply to salaried employees as they are already compensated for more or less their weekly schedule of work.    Obviously, if the credit union tellers refused to volunteer, they would be mandated to do it-- this is not volunteering - it is work time.   The company logo would also be emblazoned on the materials and the booth to show the community their employees care... work time....

REAL  Volunteer:
If the employee is told by the Employer, "All employees  should try their best, if they can, to make our community better.  The company will support you if you want time off to donate your time to community service or volunteering up to 16 hours each year and we will give you time off with or without using your own vacation time and - by the way, this is optional - nobody is being forced to participate -  ever."     And after hearing this you have some employees say, "no way- I don't have time"  and others decide they do have time to set up a breast cancer fundraiser or something for a local family that lost their home in a fire-- or girl scout cookie sales, whatever...    

Consider the credit union tellers above.   Assume one teller lost her mother to breast cancer and two friends of hers, also tellers, ask the credit union if they could set up a table in the park the day of a local cancer awareness day to pass out ribbons.   They may or may not have the credit union logos or materials to hand out,  but the fact is the employees came up with the idea themselves and they are under no obligation to follow through and will have no fallout if they participate or not-- aside from the cancer organization having one less supporting local business.

If the employee feels no real or perceived pressure to participate-- #or else#, then it is real volunteering and it is NOT paid work time.   The key is the employee who volunteers should be able to volunteer as much or as little as they want,  according to their own schedule, how often they want and may even quit the volunteering if they want.   The point is  we all know what  REAL   volunteering is and when we pass the gray area into  the point where the employer demands it then the employee goes from non-paid to PAid time.

I hope this helps clarify things on volunteering and whether it is paid or not.

Brian Phillips
Harvis HR Services

Human Resources

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Brian Phillips


Foreign and US university students -*PLEASE*- DO NOT waste your time asking for my opinions, comments or analysis of your homework questions. Homework questions are not answered and are rejected. I am happy to help answer questions asked by employees and employers regarding United States based state and Federal wage and hour, OT, Fair labor standards, FMLA, COBRA, Recruiting, Interviewing techniques, employee manuals, discipline, terminations/quits, unemployment, HRIS rollout, Employee Leasing or Staffing company cost analysis, day to day scenarios, work situations and more. Essentially a well rounded HR generalist who operates Harvis, Inc., a human resource consulting and service business based in Northeastern Pennsylvania "NEPA".


At Harvis, Inc., we provide Human Resource products, services and advice to small businesses that may not have the time or resources to hire a full time HR department. For larger companies with HR managers in place, we compliment their expertise to help with time consuming or time sensitive projects like updating policy manuals, screening and interviewing and more. We make workplaces better by becoming that 1/2 person they need to help handle HR responsibilities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Formerly responsible for all Human Resource activity for a staffing agency with 2,500 annual employees as well as an employee leasing / PEO business with 1,500 annual employees. Designed and implemented the HR structure to support hundreds of clients in excess of $ 500 million in payroll volume over career in Human Resources.

* President 2006- Harvis Inc. HR Services * President 2010-13 Business Association of the Greater Shickshinny Area - Shickshinny PA * President 2013- ShickshinnyForward Not for Profit Community Long Term Revitalization Organization and former member of varios Chambers of Commerce and HR Taskforce, former President of NBC Business Club 2 years

Bloomsburg University - 1993 BS Marketing, Bloomsburg Pennsylvania and Luzerne County Community College - 1991 Business Administration, Nanticoke Pennsylvania

Awards and Honors
* Better than average - 20/10 vision * Bestowed with an occasional "Thank You" from clients and their employees.

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