RealTime IT News

AOL Faces Labor Investigation

Seven volunteers for AOL's online communities are challenging the company's reliance on "community leaders" to maintain chat rooms, enforce AOL service rules and act as online support to other subscribers, according to published reports.

The volunteers appealed to the U.S. Labor Department to evaluate whether the work violates the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that a person must be paid for time spent in job-related activities which benefit the employer, said the New York Times.

The daily quoted one volunteer in the group's Observers.net Web site, who accused AOL of dismissing and revoking the compensation of free accounts from community leaders who question the payment policies of the online service.

AOL has over 10,000 community leaders who volunteer a minimum of four hours per week, many of whom began volunteering when the high cost of Internet service reportedly balanced the amount of time spent on AOL activities, paperwork, and training, said the newspaper.

The Times quoted an AOL spokeswoman as saying that she is informed of the charges and that AOL would not comment on "discussions and regulatory agencies."