Is it illegal to work for your family business part-time on and off for free?

Would it be considered voluntary work? There was recently someone who filed for unemployment after being laid off from another company, but she also included working for the family business as a previous employer and now there is a request in the mail for the amount of wages she was paid.

Asked on September 27, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not illegal to volunteer time or work for free, if it is truly voluntary on the employee's part--the law doesn't make someone take a wage for work. It is illegal for the employer to require free work or refuse to pay an employee for work, and if the employer tries to, the employee may have a wage-and-hour  lawsuit or complaint to file with the department of labor for compensation.

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