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Civic Or Charitable 
Work Volunteers

Time you spend in work for civic or charitable purposes will be hours worked if:

  1. Your employer requested you to do it;

  2. The work being done is under your employer’s direction or control;

  3. The work being done during the time you are required to be on your employer’s premises or any other location assigned by your employer as your place of work.

Such time should not be confused with bona fide volunteer activities.  If you perform hours of service for civic, charitable or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for the services rendered you probably would be considered to be a volunteer of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organization that receives your services and the time would not be hours worked. 


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines employment very broadly, i.e., “to suffer or permit to work.” However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the FLSA was not intended “to stamp all persons as employees who without any express or implied compensation agreement might work for their own advantage on the premises of another.” In administering the FLSA, the Department of Labor follows this judicial guidance in the case of individuals serving as unpaid volunteers in various community services. Individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service.

For example, members of civic organizations may help out in a sheltered workshop; men's or women's organizations may send members or students into hospitals or nursing homes to provide certain personal services for the sick or elderly; parents may assist in a school library or cafeteria as a public duty to maintain effective services for their children or they may volunteer to drive a school bus to carry a football team or school band on a trip. Similarly, an individual may volunteer to perform such tasks as driving vehicles or folding bandages for the Red Cross, working with disabled children or disadvantaged youth, helping in youth programs as camp counselors, scoutmasters, den mothers, providing child care assistance for needy working mothers, soliciting contributions or participating in benefit programs for such organizations and volunteering other services needed to carry out their charitable, educational, or religious programs.

Under the FLSA, employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers. On the other hand, in the vast majority of circumstances, individuals can volunteer services to public sector employers. When Congress amended the FLSA in 1985, it made clear that people are allowed to volunteer their services to public agencies and their community with but one exception - public sector employers may not allow their employees to volunteer, without compensation, additional time to do the same work for which they are employed. There is no prohibition on anyone employed in the private sector from volunteering in any capacity or line of work in the public sector.

For information about independent contractors and trainees (including School-to-Work programs) or to find out whether you are "covered" by the FLSA, click on the underlined text.

Remember that some employees are exempt from various provisions of the law. To explore the broad categories of these exemptions or to obtain further information about the FLSA, click on the underlined text.

Public Sector Volunteers
Public sector employees may volunteer to do different kinds of work in the jurisdiction in which they are employed, or volunteer to do similar work in different jurisdictions. For example, police officers can volunteer different work (non-law enforcement related) in city parks and schools, or can volunteer to perform law enforcement for a different jurisdiction than where they are employed.

The Department of Labor's Regulations 29 C.F.R. §553.103, define “same type of services” to mean similar or identical services. In general, DOL would consider the duties and other factors contained in the definitions of occupations in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles in determining whether the volunteer activities constitute the “same type of services” as the employment activities.

Equally important is whether the volunteer service is closely related to the actual duties performed by or responsibilities assigned to the employee who “volunteers.”

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