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Volunteer or employee?

Posted: June 19, 2011 - 8:00am

Given the direction of government in today’s society, current actions of Alaska’s department of labor wage and hour division needs to be brought to light. The Alaska department of labor in 2010 set a new precedent that will require all nonprofit organizations in Alaska to follow (LDBA) Little Davis Bacon Act law requirements. The Alaska Department of Labor used the Webster dictionary to define a trail as roadway, and has determined that habitat restoration work on state and municipal lands qualifies as public construction work. The term public construction is one of the triggers that engage title 36 LDBA. Some of the other triggers are:

1) Is the project on state or municipal land?

2) Will it require the state or local government to conduct maintenance in the future?

3) Are there state or local government funds involved?

Recognizing that Alaska has more than 7,000 nonprofit organizations incorporated in the state, many which regularly partner with local and state government agencies to get grassroots community projects done, this action by the Alaska Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division threatens the very future of many of these projects. Talking with Workers Comp division of DOL, their definition of an employee could also include volunteers.

AS 23.30.265 (12) determines whether a person is an “employee” based on the (relative-nature-of-the-work test).  This test includes a determination of several sections, the most important is, does the person or entity performing the services:

(A) Have the right to exercise control of the manner and means to accomplish the desired results;

(B) Does the person or entity performing the services have the right to terminate the relationship at will, without cause;

(C) Does the person or entity have the right to extensive supervision of the work.

Any one of these or all indicates a strong inference of employee status;
Given these factors DOL could determine a volunteer as an employee there by requiring a nonprofit conducting a community project with state or municipal agency be required to pay its volunteers prevailing wage’s — Little Davis Bacon wages.

While it may sound like Chicken Little and the sky is falling, it has happened here in Alaska and is happening now. Without legislative correction, nonprofit projects across the state and in your communities may cease to happen. All because of the blind path the Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division is taking to push worthy nonprofit partnerships off the cliff.  I urge you to contact your local favorite nonprofit and your legislator. The only fix to this is legislative action. Think of the different nonprofit volunteer involved projects across Alaska that could be affected. Nonprofit organizations build outreach community involvement, ownership and promote stewardship values. Without these partnerships, many projects would be impacted, communities would clamor at area legislators for government funding to fix favorite trails, stream banks and parks.  Worst of all local youth and volunteers would not take ownership and community pride of neighborhoods and Alaska outdoors. 

How many nonprofit groups do you know that benefit your community through private, state federal and local funds?  They could be affected by this?

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