Can employees volunteer to work?
Q&AWage and Hour
Q: We’re working with new equipment and a few employees have asked us if they can volunteer to stay after their shift to learn how to use the new technology that operates the machines—should we let them?
A: While it might seem like you’re doing something for the employee’s benefit, and you don’t want to discourage initiative, these individuals should be paid for time spent learning how to use the equipment. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) you must pay employees if you “suffer or permit” them to perform tasks. If an employee is engaged in activities that are to your benefit, such as gaining additional skills that they’ll use on the job, you should pay them for this time. These kinds of situations give you an opportunity to encourage your employee’s effort and comply with the law. Explaining to your employees that you love the initiative and will make time for them to learn these new skills, while making sure they receive proper compensation for work performed, keeps you clear of legal claims and shows that you care about your employee’s advancement.