The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently held that a school safety officer who also served as a golf coach for a public high school’s golf team is a volunteer and not entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In Purdham v. Fairfax County School Board, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4644 (4th Cir. March 10, 2011) a security and safety assistant for the Fairfax County, Virginia public schools claimed that he spent approximately an additional 300 hours per year serving as a golf coach for one of the school board’s high schools and should be paid overtime to the extent his duties as a golf coach extended his weekly number of hours worked beyond forty.
The School Board asserted that Mr. Purdham volunteered his time as a golf coach and is therefore exempt from the FLSA overtime requirements. The U.S. District Court agreed with the school board and this decision was upheld by the Fourth Circuit.
In the Court’s opinion, the Court held that a volunteer is “ ‘ an individual who, without promise or expectation of compensation, but solely for his personal purpose or pleasure, work[s] in activities carried on by other persons either for their pleasure or profit.’” (quoting Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 295 (1985)). The Fourth Circuit, however, found that this definition does not necessarily require that an employee be motivated solely by civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons in order to be classified as a volunteer. In this case, although Mr. Purdham may have been somewhat motivated by a modest stipend the school board provided to him, the Court found that he was primarily motivated by the satisfaction of coaching high school students in golf. Also, the fact that the school board, for a brief period, decided to pay overtime to coaches as a result the board’s uncertainty as to whether the FLSA overtime provisions applied to coaches did not bind the school board to a determination that athletic coaches were subject to FLSA overtime provisions.
This case likely has implications for governmental agencies and non-profit organizations in the Fourth Circuit. Of note, the Court found that reimbursing expenses or providing a stipend (as long as the stipend is not connected with productivity) does not necessarily jeopardize an individual’s status as a volunteer for overtime purposes.