Golf Course "Volunteers" Sue for Unpaid Wages

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Golf Course "Volunteers" Sue for Unpaid Wages

By Rob Harris, Editor, Golf Dispute Resolution

Palm Beach County finds itself defending a putative class action lawsuit brought by three individuals challenging the “golf facility volunteer” moniker given to them for providing services at three county owned golf courses. Plaintiffs describe their services as follows:

The job duties of golf facility volunteers are to greet customers, unload and load golf bags from arriving and departing cars, wiping down customer’s golf clubs at the conclusion of a customer’s round of golf, assisting the starter, driving equipment to retrieve and wash golf golf balls from the driving range, patrolling the golf course, policing pace of play, assisting the starter, filling divots with sand, picking up and disposing of trash, raking the sand traps, cleaning (sanitizing) and charging the golf carts, replenishing sand to fill divots, ensuring that all golf carts have scorecards and pencils, and driving the carts to and from the cart barn as needed.

For providing these services, the “volunteers” are compensated, but in a currency that is not green and bears no pictures of former U.S. Presidents. Instead, according to the complaint, they receive free and/or discounted golf privileges. According to plaintiffs, this arrangement violates federal and state statutes that require the payment of minimum wages.

In addition, one of the plaintiffs seeks damages for retaliation by the County. Alleging that his “opposition and opinions about the legality of Defendant’s volunteer program were well-known by his supervisors,” he nonetheless claims that, following a county-wide Covid-related furlough, he wanted back in and “requested to be placed on the volunteer active schedule.” However, the County, “in direct response to his many complaints about the legality of Defendant’s volunteer program,” advised him “that his services were no longer needed and that he was terminated.” 

At this juncture, there is only the complaint, so we have yet to hear the County’s response. The complaint seeks class certification on behalf of what plaintiffs contend are 600 similarly situated individuals.

My guess is that these 600 may be a bit nervous about the tax man, as I suspect that, to the extent the discounted and free golf had value, there is income that arguably should have been reported, not to mention FICA issues that impact all concerned.

Stay tuned.

Rob Harris is the founder and editor of Golf Dispute Resolution


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