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Do any labor laws apply to work performed at a boarding school?

Chelan, WA |

My nephew was sent to a boarding school, but the school is asking the students for help in repairing older buildings (and even in constructing a new building). The kids are not paid for their work. The school is a non-profit organization, and insists that the students who are helping out are volunteering by their own will and learning valuable skills. Although the school is non-profit, it does not own the campus. Rather, the school rents the property from a private owner (connected to the school). Is there any employer/employee relationship? And if it does just fall under volunteering, is there a maximum amount of hours that children are allowed to volunteer in a day/week?

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Attorney answers 1


I'd recommend interacting with the US Department of Labor ( and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries ( The 2013 Washington minimum wage is $9.19. Washington's minimum wage applies to workers in both agriculture and non-agricultural jobs, although 14- and 15-year-olds may be paid 85% of the minimum wage ($7.81). Whether the children are truly volunteers or not is a question of fact that skillful lawyers might argue about for an extremely long time.

[In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.]

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