A proposed collective and class action claims Palm Beach County, Florida unlawfully employed “volunteers” to work at three golf courses in exchange for only free and discounted golf privileges.
According to the lawsuit, the defendant’s allegedly unlawful volunteer program allowed the county to obtain free labor by tasking those who signed on with duties that should have been performed by employees and properly compensated.
“As a result of this ‘volunteer program,’ Defendant’s golf facilities obtain free labor as Defendant hires volunteers to perform the same labor for which private golf facilities must pay employees proper wages,” the complaint states. “If not for the Defendant’s ‘volunteer program,’ all of its golf facilities would have to hire employees to perform the job duties of the volunteers.”
Palm Beach County’s volunteer program, the suit says, demonstrates “a widespread pattern and practice” of avoiding federal and state minimum wage obligations and has affected roughly 600 golf volunteers over the past few years.
Per the case, Palm Beach County hires volunteers for three of its four golf courses, including Osprey Point Golf Course, Okeeheelee Golf Course, and Park Ridge Golf Course, and its teaching facility, the John Prince Golf Learning Center. Volunteers are paid no wages in exchange for their work and are compensated only in the form of free or discounted golf privileges, the lawsuit relays.
The three plaintiffs, former golf volunteers who worked at the defendant’s Osprey Point Golf Club, claim they and others were tasked with duties that ranged from greeting customers, loading and unloading golf bags from vehicles, wiping down customers’ golf clubs, filling divots, retrieving and washing golf balls, and policing the pace of play to raking sand traps, picking up trash, and cleaning and driving golf carts.
The lawsuit argues that the tasks performed by volunteers are “vital and necessary” to the operation of Palm Beach County’s golf facilities, which the defendant operates as for-profit entities. Indeed, the defendant’s golf facilities compete with many private golf courses in the county who pay employees wages to perform the same tasks as Palm Beach County’s volunteers, the suit says.
According to the case, the defendant has, since at least January 2016, subjected all of its golf volunteers to “the same illegal practice” of failing to pay wages for work.
One of the plaintiffs, who worked for the defendant from January 2016 until mid-March 2020 when he was placed on furlough due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, additionally alleges that he was prevented from returning to his position last October in retaliation for previous complaints about the legality of the defendant’s volunteer program. Per the case, the plaintiff was informed “without any legal justification” that his services were no longer needed, and he was terminated.
“Defendant’s actions as more particularly described above were directly related to and in response to [the plaintiff’s] opposition about Defendant’s volunteer program, since there are no other justifiable reasons for Defendant’s adverse action,” the lawsuit alleges.
The full complaint can be read below.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s newsletter here.