[MUD-Dev] The Solution to Criminalizing Community Volunteers?

nbossett at herbert.com nbossett at herbert.com
Mon Sep 11 08:44:03 CEST 2000

Note: This message was written via the list web archives.  There is
no guarantee that the claimed author is actually the author.
Original message: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2000Q3/msg01018.php

On Sat, 09 Sep 2000 22:40:23 -0700
"Jon Morrow" <Jon at Morrow.net> wrote:

> 1) For commercial organizations, a contract should be supplied for the
> volunteer simply stating acknowledgement that they work without compensation
> and in the event of dissatisfaction they reserve the right to discontinue
> their service. The organization also states that they reserve the right to
> "fire" the volunteer if they are dissatisfied with services rendered. (If I
> am not legally correct here, someone please intervene)

Usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

If a corporation is worried about being considered an employer, is a formal
contract what is called for?  Specific rights and obligations might hurt rather
than help.

I'd prefer to argue that volunteerism is based on the soup-kitchen model:
1) We supply the materials. If you make donations of food or money to the
organization, that's a totally separate action.
2) You be helpful, 'helpful' being defined by us only informally.  This may
include such specific obligations as committing to serve at certain times
determined in advance through mutual agreement.
3) If you are non-productive or obstructive, you're asked to leave.
4) Payment as such is not provided; tools to make you able to do your job more
efficiently may be. (in the case of a soup kitchen, a free meal to sit down with
the clientele and socialize, in the case of a computer service perhaps
connection time or accounts)  Decorative buttons for the volunteers to wear and
other minor perks are perfectly appropriate and do not constitute payment.

As a note on several people's observations regarding specific directives and
work items being given to volunteers, and on the right of employees to earn a
decent living:

A)  Habitat for Humanity, among other groups, must of necessity have a definite
management structure for volunteer projects.  Building a house doesn't happen
through a pile of volunteers just being launched at a pile of building supplies.
 Specific hours and responsibilities must be delegated, and there must be a
foreman and group leaders.  Somewhere up the ladder you find a full-time job and
individuals who are probably regular employees.

B) Labor law is designed to protect people from being exploited in their jobs
while they're trying to earn a living.  A volunteer position which you take on
in the expectation of absolutely no remuneration is (hopefully?) clearly outside
the bounds of minimum wage and other employee-protection laws.  Something you
started doing because it is 'fun' is not sweatshop labor.

Nathan Bossett

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