Be Careful With Volunteers!

It’s common practice for festivals and large-scale events to use volunteers to help with their different tasks. After all, they’re usually associated with non-profits, and if not they’re so much fun that people are often happy to work just to gain access. Event staff can be expensive! But with labor laws becoming stricter and stricter and misclassification lawsuits increasing like with Insomniac Events and Moet Hennessy, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re not violating employment laws when using volunteers or the bill will be even higher.
Volunteer ≠ event staff.

Here are 3 factors to consider and resources to help make sure you’re in the clear:

  1. Control and Type of Work Performed:

Just like independent contractors, the more control you have over a person’s tasks and schedule, the more likely they are to be considered an employee instead of a volunteer. Make sure they aren’t doing the actual work of an employee or event staff, like registration and ticket taking!
https://www.laboremploymentperspectives.com/2015/01/05/when-it-comes-to-volunteer-workers-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished/

  1. Not Doing Their “Job”? Tough!

Since you aren’t paying them, you unfortunately cannot force them to perform specific tasks, be good at that task, or show up on time. You can decide to terminate any volunteer agreements or take away future duties, but not under typical disciplinary actions you would normal take with an employee.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/sep/03/charities-volunteers-employment-law-advice

  1. Compensation: All or nothing

It may seem like a nice gesture to offer a monetary bonus or stipend to your volunteers, but this may actually be a liability for your organization. And make sure you aren’t allowing your employees to volunteer for your company either unless under very specific circumstances!
https://www.nonprofitrisk.org/resources/articles/employee-or-volunteer-whats-the-difference/

You always want to err on the side of caution, and we hope these resources are helpful. If you ARE paying your event staff, be sure to hire them as employees instead of independent contractors or you will face even more issues since the same control parameters apply!

We know it can be super confusing, and if you have any questions we’d be happy to talk with you. Contact us to set up a time to chat!