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Utah - Mandatory "Volunteer" Service

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  • Utah - Mandatory "Volunteer" Service

    Thanks in advance for your advice

    I presently work for a non-profit organization in Utah.

    My employer has recently decided that all employees should perform a mandatory "volunteer" project periodically throughout the year. My employer states that this is a mandatory "training" project to help us improve customer service. I am in a supervisory position and over a small group of other employees, with whom I am to plan and carry out a service project. All employees will be paid for their participation in the project and planning for it.

    I have dragged my feet on this, as I believe being forced to do service and then receiving compensation for it is morally questionable. However, the due date is approaching and my group's project is scheduled two weeks after the due date. Obviously, the blame for doing our project late will fall entirely on my shoulders, and I will accept that blame.

    My group has decided to do its service project for a religious organization on a Sunday. I do not feel comfortable accepting compensation for this work, as I do not believe in receiving pay for performing religious duties nor in "working" on a Sunday, and will refuse any monetary compensation. I have informed the employees I supervise that they may ultimately decide whether or not they accept compensation and that I will have no role in their choice.

    I have two basic questions:

    1. Is my employer on any legal grounds to punish me for failing to perform this "service" on time or failing to do it at all?

    3. Is my employer on any legal grounds at all to compel employees to perform service projects, whether under the guise of training or otherwise?

    2. Should my employer attempt to punish me at all - reduced wage or wage increase, termination, etc. - what recourse do I have?

    I have been with this employer for 3 years and have an excellent record, recently passing through an evaluation period with very high marks from fellow employees and management.

    Thank you for reading such a long post, and thank you again for your response

  • #2
    OK, I have to ask, if you are responsible for coming up with or guiding this group volunteer project, why would you choose something which you have an objection to? If I disagreed with performing work on a Sunday, I sure wouldn't schedule my group project for a Sunday.

    As it seems you have had plenty of time to prepare for this and had some hand in planning what type of volunteer project you will do, yes, you employer absolutely can hold it againt you if you do not do it. It has nothing to do with your religious beliefs, but rather your failure to comply with a company assignment. You admit to dragging your feet on this and scheduling a project after the deadline so I don't see your employer as having much sympathy. You already have 2 strikes against you.

    Your employer is perfectly within their rights to mandate that employees participate in some sort of volunteer activity as a condition of continued employment. They are paying you for that time so they have a right to direct what you do during it. It isn't as if they are forcing you to work on a Sunday against your religious beliefs, that is the project you chose.

    If you truly do not feel right accepting compensation for this assignemnt, consider donating that portion of your salary to a worthy cause of your choice.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


    • #3
      Thank you for your reply, Elle.

      The issue of the actual project is, of course, my choice, and I accept that. I suppose I should have pointed out that the foot dragging, however, isn't entirely my fault - aligning the schedules of several busy people with families is not easy. Choosing to do the project on a Sunday is more a matter of convenience, and the only time all of us could participate. The project was originally planned two days from now, actually, but was pushed back to ensure two remaining group members could participate.

      The key issue is whether an employer can demand employees do community service and make their employment (and promotions, etc.) dependent on that service. That appears to be the case. I would like to ask, however, if you have a specific citation in law for this. I don't doubt you or your opinion in the least, I would only like to study the subject more closely myself.

      Thank you again.


      • #4
        You aren't going to find a law that says they can, only the absence of a law that says they can't. Employers have a great deal of latitude in assigning work and so long as you are being paid for your time, what your employer requests you do with it, is up to them. Absent of course the breaking of any laws. They could not pay you for your time and expect you to rob a bank, but they very well could expect you to put in time with an outside organization. In the non-profit sector that is not uncommon. Even some private sector employers are offering to pay employees for their volunteer time.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


        • #5
          That makes my job a bit easier.

          In any case, I'm not anticipating too much of a problem. For my position, I've nearly reached the cap on my salary as it is, and strongly doubt much of an issue will be made of it. The project is something of a pilot program, and I'm hardly alone in "foot dragging" on it - it's been met with great hostility, as management failed to discuss it with supervisors before implementing it. Hopefully, through some careful office politics, we'll be able to avoid this from coming up again. I don't mind doing service - I do it regularly - but I despise being forced to do so, particularly when it means assembling a group of busy people so we can work together, another policy of this program.


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