The best revenge?

Attorney Kathryn van den Berk makes us aware of some wrinkles in nonprofit employment law making volunteers employees for certain purposes. The abused “Trilingual and Faithful” (see post from May 17), working at the front desk of a museum, may actually be considered an employee if the other people who do that work on behalf of the museum are not volunteers but employees. Wouldn’t it be the best revenge to sue the museum for back wages?

More seriously, nonprofits should remember that expecting employees to attend evening functions (especially fundraisers) as “volunteers” makes those employees eligible for overtime–and those nonprofits eligible for prosecution for violation of the maximum hours laws. A colleague of the Nonprofiteer’s who works at a church finally had to put her foot down about the extra hours she was expected to work in return for “comp time,” noting that the labor laws require her to be paid for those hours.

Unless nonprofits want to ally themselves with sweatshop employers in proposing that employees be “permitted” to accept comp time instead of pay (a system guaranteed to produce abuse, in the form of pressure on employees to accept time instead of money), they should be prepared to pay their employees for the hours they work. And if they do want to ally themselves with sweatshop employers, nonprofits shouldn’t be surprised if their employees start talking union.


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