Every HR pro knows what to include in job ads: a description, qualifications, company benefits and sometimes a salary range.
Something most companies don’t advertise is that they expect the new employee to work without pay — but that didn’t stop one employer from trying it!
‘A without salary basis’
A job posting from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) went viral on Twitter recently due to a bizarre section on salary.
Here’s what the posting said:
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA seeks applicants for an Assistant Adjunct Professor on a without salary basis. Applicants must understand there will be no compensation for this position.
This had both job seekers and HR pros scratching their heads in disbelief. “This can’t be legal, right?”
And the answer is no, according to employment law attorney Jon Hyman who chimed in. In almost all cases, he said, free work is illegal.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) clearly states that employers must at least pay employees minimum wage for all hours worked.
Charitable v. commercial
Of course, Hyman explained, there are always exceptions. Nonprofit organizations, which UCLA is, are permitted to use volunteer work for their charitable endeavors.
However, a nonprofit is not permitted to use volunteer work for commercial endeavors. So the legality of the work-without-pay job ad depends on which category the position falls into.
“If, for example,” Hyman said, “the university was filling a position for someone to go into the community to offer educational services for at-risk youth, I could envision an argument for charity over commerce.”
But since UCLA sought a professor — and the university charges tuition for students to attend classes — it would be hard to argue the job advanced the school’s charitable endeavors. A professor would actually directly advance UCLA’s commercial activities, and that position must be paid.
Not too long after this job posting went viral on Twitter, UCLA took it down. It just goes to show that some employers will try to circumvent even the most basic and obvious employment tenets if they think they can get away with it.