College and professional sports teams and other event sponsors frequently rely on nonprofit organizations to supplement their workforces. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced an investigation of the NFL's San Diego Chargers' use of such volunteer labor that could cause significant legal concern to event sponsors throughout the U.S.
The Chargers contract with a company which in turn recruits high school athletic teams and booster clubs to provide game day workers for parking, concession, ticket taking and other functions. The company receives a per-worker fee, a portion of which is then paid to the nonprofit organization. DOL is investigating whether such labor practices violate child labor as well as minimum wage laws.
If this practice is found to be illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it could fundamentally change the way in which large athletic and other functions are staffed. The number of annual events is typically too small to justify hiring a permanent workforce. It could also affect the ability of the nonprofit groups to use these events as fundraisers.
In recent years, DOL has been cracking down on the use of unpaid interns and other forms of volunteer labor. Read strictly, the FLSA largely prohibits the use of such labor, even on a casual basis, unless minimum wage and child labor laws are observed.