From the Hotline: Can a Former Paid Intern Return as a Volunteer?

Question: May a former paid intern, whose employment ended when she graduated from school, return as an unpaid volunteer to the same department?

Answer: We would not recommend allowing her to volunteer in the same capacity as she was in while she was previously employed. Please consult with your attorney for a legal opinion relating to this practice first.

While the Fair Labor Standards Act talks specifically about current employees not being able to volunteer in a capacity similar to their paid work, it does not speak to former employees. However, because a paid relationship was already established for this individual in this capacity, the risk may be higher and we would encourage the employer to be very cautious.

Alternately, allowing her to volunteer in a capacity that is entirely unrelated to her previous role or department may be permissible and less risky, especially if your organization has regular volunteers.