Many doctors and dentists participate in or initiate a charitable event in the community, during which free medical care is often offered to the community. A question we regularly receive on this topic is:
“Do I have to pay my employees to participate in these events with me, even if the employee volunteers his or her time?
Federal wage and hour law, enforced by the Department of Labor, is in place to prevent an employer from coercing its staff into providing free, unpaid labor. Anytime the employee appears to be under your direction or control, or is required to be in a particular place at a particular time, you can count on the Department of Labor viewing the employees as working and needing to be paid. This is the case even if there’s a charitable purpose for their services.
The law recognizes, however, that the public benefits greatly when individuals volunteer their time and services to civic, charitable, humanitarian, or similar non-profit organizations. Thus, if the event meets all three of the items below, the employee may be considered a “bona fide volunteer” and, as a result, does not have to be compensated:
- the event is outside the employee’s normal working hours,
- the event is for a civic or charitable purpose, and not for the primary benefit of the employer, and
- the employee is freely volunteering to participate without coercion from their employer,
Anytime you are planning to participate in a charitable event, we recommend that you first speak with a CEDR Solution Center Advisor so we can help determine if you need to pay your employees. Contact us at (866) 414-6056 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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