Did you know that government agencies are cracking down on the use of interns and volunteers in “for-profit” organizations and attorneys for employees are bringing more and more claims against employers who fail to treat volunteers appropriately under wage payment laws?
Yes – even volunteers.
Though volunteering feels like it should be an appropriate activity to allow – Connecticut law doesn’t actually recognize volunteering at for-profit businesses. It doesn’t matter whether a person agrees to volunteer or not – it’s simply not allowed.
Interestingly – non-profits and government agencies are viewed more leniently in these matters. However, non-profits and government agencies are still required to follow wage-and-hour laws when an individual is engaged in the organization’s regular activities and does so with an expectation of compensation.
So here are key facts you need to know:
- If you run a for-profit enterprise – the government simply will not recognize any person as a volunteer. Anyone working for you is entitled to compensation in accordance with all applicable wage-and-hour laws. If caught and challenged for using volunteers – penalties from the courts and government agencies can be quite high.
- If a “volunteer” were ever injured on the job – you would likely not have appropriate coverage for them under your workers’ compensation insurance policy if they made a claim for such benefits because you would not have paid premiums to obtain such coverage for them as you would have for your employees. t Again – a potentially costly problem.
What steps should you take to avoid problems?
- Know the law.
- Never assume you can “sneak under the radar” and use volunteers in the belief that a volunteer would never report you or complain.
- Be prepared to say no to volunteer offers and instead consider steering these individuals to appropriate non-profits that may need support.
- Remember – even “partial” compensation of a “volunteer” may unintentionally trigger other costly obligations.
If you have questions about interns or volunteers and want to avoid legal issues, talk to a well trained Connecticut employment lawyer. The attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale each have over 20 years of experience in these employment matters and would be pleased to help you. Please contact us if we can help.
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