The opportunity for students and others to experience the veterinary profession as a volunteer, or trainee is beneficial to the individual and the profession, however, labor laws require veterinary establishments closely follow the law when these positions are offered without pay.
The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private and public sectors. It defines employees and provides certain exemptions for trainees and volunteers. This law applies to a company or organization with annual dollar volume of sales or receipts in the amount of $500,000 or more. If the company/organization does not meet this threshold, the employees may still be covered by the FLSA if their own duties meet certain interstate commerce requirements.
Each veterinary establishment that uses volunteers/trainees should be aware of the labor laws within the state where the establishment is located. Each veterinary establishment should consult with its insurance carrier to assess liability coverage regarding professional liability, workman's compensation, auto, and public liability relative to the action of a volunteer. Insurance carriers should also be consulted regarding coverage should volunteers or trainees be injured during the course of their affiliation with the practice. An indemnification agreement between the establishment and the volunteer or trainee should be considered.
Veterinary establishments should be aware that utilizing trainees or volunteers beyond the criteria as stipulated above could subject the establishment to wage-hour litigation and other liability.
2015 American Veterinary Medical Association