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State and Local Employees and Volunteer Work

Extension employees have the right to do volunteer work for the organization unless the volunteer work is the same as, or could be regarded as basically similar to, the employee’s regular job. For example, a 4-H staff member may be a Master Gardener volunteer, but may not be a 4-H volunteer.

This policy is also state law. The Fair Labor Standards Act makes clear that an employee of a state or locality may perform different services for the employing jurisdiction on a volunteer basis without those additional hours being treated as compensable time for purposes of the FLSA. However, there is an important limitation on the use of regular employees as volunteers – the employee may not perform services on a volunteer basis that are “the same type of services which the individual is employed to perform for the (employing jurisdiction).” The purpose of this restriction is to ensure that employees of state and local governments are not coerced into performing their regular work for no compensation or for a subminimum wage. It also protects the organization from later claims by employees that they should have been paid for work that at the time was considered voluntary.

Extension and volunteers benefit from volunteer participation in official University activities. To ensure volunteers are covered for liability and workers’ compensation, departments must:

  • Understand the definition of Volunteer to ensure applicable requirements are met
  • Understand Volunteers are subject to WSU employee policies and safety procedures
  • Designate Volunteers BEFORE duties are performed
  • Register and maintain complete records for each Volunteer
  • Submit timely Volunteer information reporting
  • Contact the Volunteer Specialist with questions about Volunteer injury reporting, worker’s compensation claims, accidents, occupational illnesses and workplace incidents

Jana Ferris, State Volunteer Development Specialist