Unpaid Volunteer Files Unpaid Wage Lawsuit Against MLB

News reports that a volunteer of the 2013 All-Star FanFest has filed an unpaid wage lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB) for unpaid wages.

According to the wage and hour lawsuit, more than 2000 unpaid volunteers were instrumental in getting MLB’s “FanFest,” off the ground. FanFest is described as “the largest interactive baseball theme park in the world.” The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, also alleges the league used unpaid volunteers when it hosted the All-Star Game in New York City in 2008.

The lawsuit claims that these volunteers should have been paid.

Federal labor law, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), provides that all employees must be paid at least minimum wages and that all non-exempt workers are entitled to compensation at one and one-half times their regular rate of pay. The Department of Labor (DOL) has set forth very specific criteria detailing when interns or volunteers are not required to be paid. If you have questions about your pay, or believe that your employer may not have paid you all the compensation you deserve, it’s a good idea to consult with a dedicated Atlanta wage and hour attorney.

According to the lawsuit, Chen, of Rego Park, N.Y., worked as an unpaid volunteer on June 1, then again for four days in July. The lawsuit alleges that the league violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law by failing to pay at least minimum wage to volunteers. A representative notes “We hope to stop for-profit companies like Major League Baseball from soliciting and receiving free labor …the minimum wage law prohibits for-profit private companies from accepting free volunteer labor.”

The lawsuit further asserts: “Instead of paying them for their work, MLB, the world’s preeminent professional baseball league with annual revenue of more than seven billion dollars, provided volunteers with ‘a shirt, a cap and a cinch drawstring backpack,’ free admission for the volunteer and one guest to FanFest, a water bottle and a baseball.”

This case differs from unpaid internship cases in that where interns are involved, the court may take into account the educational benefits of a position. Here, as volunteers the analysis is more straightforward.

To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer – and not required to be paid – the Department of Labor has set forth a number of factors to consider. No single factor is determinative.

These factors include:
• Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
• Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
• Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
• Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
• Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?, and • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?

How you answer these questions influences whether a worker should be compensated or should truly be categorized as an unpaid “volunteer.”

For more information or if you believe that you have not been paid all the compensation you are entitled to, please contact the top Atlanta wage and hour attorneys Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.