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Can My Boss Make Me Do Volunteer Work?

professional roofer in his working environment with tools of the trade
By Andrew Leonatti | Last updated on

In a bid to lure and retain high quality employees, many workplaces make it easy to volunteer your time to non-profit organizations. This can be done by allowing paid time off to volunteer during the work day or organizing employee volunteer outings.

While many people like working at places that allow them to give back to their communities, not everyone chooses to volunteer. But what happens when your boss forgets the meaning of the word “volunteer” and requires you to give your time to another organization? Or, even trickier, what if your boss doesn’t require you to volunteer, but strongly encourages you to participate?

What Is Your Status?

If you are considered an “exempt” employee, meaning you receive a salary instead of hourly wages, your boss could require you to attend volunteering events outside of normal work hours. That's because you will not receive overtime pay for any hours worked beyond the typical 40 hours in the work week. 

If you are a “non-exempt” employee, meaning you receive an hourly wage, things get a little more confusing. According to the Department of Labor, your employer can use your participation in encouraged volunteer activities when performing your annual evaluation. Your boss can also reward volunteer time in certain bonus plans.

If you earn an hourly wage, your boss cannot require you to volunteer outside of normal working hours without paying you. They can encourage you to attend an unpaid volunteer opportunity outside of work, like, for example, serving meals with your coworkers at a soup kitchen. They can’t require you to run the concession stand at their kid’s Sunday afternoon soccer game for free.

Whether you receive a salary or hourly wage, your boss can require you to volunteer during work hours. What they cannot do is not pay you for that time.

What You Should Do

If you think your boss has unfairly denied you wages for time spent volunteering, you should consider doing the following:

  • Professionally ask for the pay you deserve in writing
  • Save all of your communications regarding the dispute
  • File a wage and hour claim or talk with an employment law attorney if your employer refuses to pay you what they owe you.

Always remember that you have rights and options if you are not receiving the pay that you worked for.

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