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AOL Seeks Pay Exclusion for Volunteers

August 16, 2003|From Bloomberg News

America Online Inc. asked the Bush administration to keep outside the reach of U.S. labor laws its 7,000 volunteer chat-room monitors, who get free Internet service instead of pay and are demanding $80 million in back wages.

The Internet division of AOL Time Warner Inc. faces lawsuits in California, New York and other states by its monitors, who are called "community leaders."

They say they should have been paid for facilitating conversation in virtual chat rooms, enforcing AOL rules and giving online support to other subscribers that takes a few hours a week.

AOL's lawyers wrote a comment letter to the Labor Department, asking that the computer volunteers be explicitly excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs minimum wages paid to U.S. employees.

AOL Time Warner spokesman Nicholas Graham declined to comment on the lawsuits.

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