Full Pay & Benefits for forum volunteers
Are online forum helpers volunteers or employees? This is a discussion that goes back over 20 years. In 1999 a group of chat room helpers filed a lawsuit against America Online requesting employee status and rights.
Tuesday, District Judge Kevin Duffy rejected Time Warners request to dismiss a lawsuit which could affect over 12,000 former AOL online helpers and cost tens of millions of dollars. The primary litigants in this case are named as Ann Johnson, Pamela Spencer Johnson, Kelly Hallissey,and Donald Lowe. Wikipedia also mentions a Brian Williams. The Department of Labor dismissed this case in 2001 but apparently it continues on.
While AOL may not have a lot of fans in current online forums, this is one I hope is successful for America Online and Time Warner. Community Leaders at AOL deserved much more than they received but they knew from the start what they were agreeing to. Many web sites online would not function without the help of dedicated volunteers who ask nothing in return. If the courts decided they were all employees eligible for minimum wage many sites couldn’t afford to stay online.
It doesn’t look like a possible win in this suit has been taken too seriously. Most news organizations haven’t picked it up and it certainly hasn’t affected trading of Time Warner Inc.(NYSE:TWX)