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What distinguishes a volunteer from an employee at an adult day care center?

New York, NY |
Filed under: Employment

The director has specifically stated this is a volunteer job with no pay. I help with heavy lifting, cleaning, serving meals, looking at letters for patients, making calls for patients on their behalf and performing other requests from patients. Yet I take on many duties that I think help earn money for the company (I am not 100% sure if they are in fact towards earning revenue for the company) like doing reception work, asking patients to sign in, making errand runs and shopping trips, conducting surveys for our partner health care provider company, language translation for patients during monthly follow ups with our partner health center if needed, and arranging with transportation to pickup patients.

Thanks you for the reply! Unfortunately there was no written contract just an oral understanding that I was to volunteer at the facility. No specific tasks were assigned they were just added to my role(s) as needed as time went by. I also would like to know should I refrain from heavy lifting? I've been told if something happened while volunteering, the center is not responsible as I am not an employee. I also do not have any health insurance at the moment and don't want to risk any injuries.

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Attorney answers 3


The terms of the agreement define the relationship. If the agreement was that you would volunteer and not receive a paycheck, then that is the key aspect of the agreement, which makes you a "volunteer" rather than an employee entitled to a paycheck. It sounds like they have you doing more than you agreed to as a volunteer. I would discuss that with your supervisor, let him or her know that you concerned that you do not get the same benefits and protection that employees receive while you are extending yourself beyond the terms of the volunteer agreement. However, even if you help the company to be profitable or make money, that does not mean you are converted into an employee if the agreement was for a volunteer position. It would also help to get your agreement in writing. Speak to an attorney for further advice and good luck!


From what you are describing, the acts you preform sound like the acts an employee would be hired to preform. However, you volunteered to do what you are doing, based on what you are describing. More information is need interims of any type of agreement you may have signed that sets out duties and responsibilities. However, a person can volunteer to do what you have described without pay. Further, you are under no commitment and are free to stop volunteering at any time. What usually controls in a volunteer situation is the intent of the volunteer and the agreement between the volunteer and the concern he/or she is volunteering with.

Best of Luck!

William J. Lasko
Attorney at Law
482 Summer Street, 2nd fl
Stamford, Conn. 06901
tel. 203 329-6602

William J. Lasko is an experienced New York, Connecticut and Washington, D. C., licensed attorney who focuses his practice primarily on employment law, personal injury and estate matters. Mr. Lasko, has been in practice for more than 23 years, represents clients throughout New York, Connecticut and Washington, D. C.. More information is available at This response is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Additionally, this response does not create an attorney client relationship.


We would need additional information to properly evaluate what is going on in this situation. I suggest you give an experienced employment attorney in your area a telephone call.

This answer does not constitute legal advice and you should contact an attorney to confirm or research further any statements made in this answer. Any statements of fact or law I have made in this answer pertain solely to New York State and should not be relied upon in any way in any other jurisdiction. Additionally, we also encourage you to reach out to us via Twitter (!/WhiteRoseMarks) or Facebook ( if you have follow up questions as we do not monitor questions after providing an initial answer.

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