Should Volunteers Be Paid?

By Joe Bush, September 1, 2015

The state of events run by for-profit companies could be shaken until they are unrecognizable if a lawsuit filed by a volunteer against an industry giant succeeds.

In June, a federal judge ruled that a labor practices lawsuit filed by a volunteer against Competitor Group Inc., could proceed. The volunteer claimed she should have been paid for her work as a bicycle escort at CGI’s St. Louis Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in 2012 because CGI is a for-profit business that uses official charities to recruit volunteers that are vital to the events. Charities pay CGI for official charity status to use in marketing materials to raise funds, and as part of the agreement, must recruit volunteers to help run the event.

The suit seeks to force CGI to pay for labor under the tenets of the Fair Labor Standards Act. CGI, which owns the Rock ‘N’ Roll series of marathons and half marathons, had asked that the lawsuit, originally brought in Sep. 2014, be dismissed.

The suit does not have implications for not-for-profit race organizers, but if successful it could impact companies like CGI. We asked executives from a few similar firms their thoughts on the suit. All prefaced their answers by clarifying they were not lawyers.

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