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Encourage staff volunteerism, but don’t link it to pay, promotion

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Heads up: More employers are heaping legal trouble on themselves by tracking employees' volunteerism ef-forts and, in some cases, using that information (either directly or indirectly) as a prerequisite for promotions or other employment decisions.

Some organizations innocently gather self-reported data on employees' volunteer or charity activities. Then, they incorporate this information into company marketing campaigns that highlight employees' company involve-ment, or to help match corporate contributions to their employees' favorite charities.

The problem: Tracking employees' volunteer hours can spark legal trouble, especially if workers feel pressured to volunteer in their free time. As a result, your well-meaning volunteerism program could spur employees to claim their volunteering actually should be viewed as "work" and, therefore, compensable. (The Fair Labor Standards Act says employees must be paid for time spent on job-related activities that benefit the employer, regardless of how the work is classified.)

Advice: Make it clear to employees that participation in any volunteer or charity activity is strictly voluntary. Make sure employees' choice to volunteer (or not) isn't used as a factor in any pay or employment decision.

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