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Joseph, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 5299
Experience:  Extensive experience representing employees and management
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Our two young children attend a for-profit day care in CA.

Customer Question

Our two young children attend a for-profit day care in CA. The owners also operate a pumpkin patch seasonal business, which they advertise as a "fund raiser" to benefit their day care. The annual-renewal contract for day care services demands that parents "volunteer" at the pumpkin patch, or pay a $100 buy-out fee. I doubt they can compel me to volunteer, thus becoming one of their employees. My real employer does not allow outside employment, and I am morally opposed to this compulsion of labor. The owners had a CA Corporation called "(Name Of School) Fundraising" in 2002. That corp's fundraising activity is still suspended by the State.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

Thank you for explaining the situation. Please let me know what question you have regarding it?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
What CA penal code, labor code, or B&P code applies to the act of a for-profit company attempting to compel customers to perform labor for their business, without compensation?
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.
Hello Martin,

Well, if you were talking about a situation where you were actually being forced to work for free that would be slavery, which is covered under the penal code (and is obviously a serious felony), but I'm afraid that is not the situation that you have here.

This is a day care center that you are choosing to send your children to, and you choose to sign a contract that states that if you do not 'volunteer' than you have to give them an extra $100. What may seem like compulsory labor to you, actually may be a good deal for some parents who make less than $100 a day, or parents who see this as potentially fun and not slave labor. Some could perhaps volunteer with their children (from what I know, kids tend to like pumpkin patches).

Basically, you should think of this as the fee for the day care being $100 more expensive and they will knock $100 off if you go, so you are technically being compensated for your time. You are entirely free to decide to take your kids out of this school, but I'm unsure what your motivation would be to try to have the owners of your childrens' day care prosecuted either. (The county DA does not have a consumer protection unit---that’s the Attorney General’s realm--but they wouldn’t be interested in this, since as I mentioned, no laws are being violated.

Since there’s no compulsory labor occurring here, and there's no penal or labor code violation. It's the freedom to contract and if you would rather not do business with the day care, you are free to end your contractual relationship with the day care and take your kids elsewhere. Otherwise, your contractual options are to volunteer for a day or spend an extra $100 on day care.

By the way, co-ops ,which are still owned as for-profit companies, operate the same way in many areas. They will waive membership fees or give food credit for people who work at the co-op. It is not illegal for them to offer a discount (or just waive a cost), or give something of value that isn't wages for services from their customers, which is what the day care owners are doing here. (For instance, see this website: Many of these ‘volunteer’ opportunities are with businesses offering room and board in exchange for ‘volunteering.’

And, frankly, I think that they may be trying to build more of a community by getting all the parents to volunteer, rather than their primary motivation is probably not trying to exploit them for 'free labor.' It would be much easier for them to charge you more money (the hundred dollars) and get migrant farm workers who'd probably work for fifty dollars a day not 100 if they were that hard up to find workers for their pumpkin patch.

I realize the above information is definitely not what you wanted to hear and I sincerely wish I had better news to give you, but I hope you appreciate an honest and direct answer to your question. It would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.

Thanks and best of luck!
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.
Hello Martin,

Please let me know if you have any follow up or clarifying questions regarding the above information?

If not, please remember to rate my answer positively so I get credit for my work!

Thanks and best of luck!