Many companies support non-profit and other organizations with contributions that are more than financial. Being a good neighbor or part of the local community makes good business sense and demonstrates that the company has more on its mind than its own balance sheet. After a relationship has been established with a cause, companies may want to show more tangible evidence of their support by helping out in person. Often, this means asking for volunteers from the company workforce to turn out for events held for the charity being supported.
Some employees report feeling strongly pressured through email communications from management to volunteer for events that the company is sponsoring or hosting. Typically, time spent volunteering falls outside the normal workday and is either after hours or on the weekend. Many employees fear retaliation for not participating in the suggested events. This begs the question of what one is truly obligated to do outside of one’s job.
How to Handle Being Asked to Volunteer
Every state has different laws for minimum wage and overtime, but federal law mandates that all non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a week be paid the overtime rate. An employer cannot require you to volunteer and work unpaid hours unless it falls under your job description. If the volunteering is presented with the threat of adverse employment action if you do not comply, then you may have a claim for unpaid wages. Employees who wish to inquire or complain about the pressure to volunteer their time can go to human resources, a supervisor, or whomever the company’s policy designates to handle such issues.
Other options include ignoring the email notices to volunteer, and hoping that there are no adverse consequences for not participating. Better perhaps, is approaching the sender directly to ask if attendance is mandatory. If you can not or choose not to attend, be sure to make that clear and offer an explanation. That way, it can be noted that there was a reason you did not show up to help at the event. Many people choose to volunteer out of support for the cause the company has chosen. Simultaneously, volunteering also enhances the professional profiles of those who donate their time. As such, they may have a professional interest in taking part in a company-wide effort to support a charitable organization.
If time permits, and if there is no threat of retaliation for non-compliance, then it may be in your interest to volunteer. Choose a high-profile event and make your presence known so your supervisor knows you were there. However, if suggestions for volunteering feel more like threats to the stability of your employment situation, then contact an experienced employment lawyer to see if your situation is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act or your state’s wage and hour law.