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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12502
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I am a member of a volunteer organization and I was unfairly

Customer Question

I am a member of a volunteer organization and I was unfairly disciplined for something I was not guilty of. Is there anything I can do about this? Are volunteers in that grey area where their hands are tied because they are just volunteers? Some serious allegations have been made and I would like to fix this so it does not tarnish my reputation and prohibit me from being a part of this organization.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is ***** ***** I will do everything I can to answer your question.
Is it possible for you to be a little bit more specific about what's going on? Are you asking whether you can be asked not to volunteer any more?
Thank you for any clarification you can provide.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have been a part of a volunteer rescue squad for 8 years. I was accused by another volunteer of not following policy and I received a write up which led to a disciplinary committee being formed. I was handed a very harsh discpline. I did not violate any policy in any way but, the chief does not like me and wants me to leave the organization. He can't make me leave so he is trying to force me out with this unfair punishment. IM going to talk to the township solicitor about the issue but, I wasn't sure there was anything I can do because I am simply a volunteer.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I would like to continue volunteering with his organization but, I don't want to accept the discipline because I did not break policy. I wasn't even given the chance to defend myself. They took the word of another member, who I am superior to, that didn't have any proof that I did, in fact, break policy.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Unfortunately, you are correct in your suspicion that you are not protected by any employment laws as a volunteer. The protections afforded by our employment laws apply only to employees (paid via W2).
I'm not sure if it will make you feel any better, but even as an employee it is unlikely that any law would protect you here. Employment laws do not protect against terminations or disciplinary action for unfair reasons. Employment is "at will" absent an agreement the contrary and as such can be terminated for virtually any non-discriminatory reason, regardless of whether the basis is fair, reasonable or even true.
Now, if it is not the volunteer position you are concerned about but purely your reputation, a defamation action is a possibility. In order for this to succeed, you would need to prove that someone made a false statement of fact about you (distinct from a statement of opinion, which is never actionable), and that the false statement caused you to sustain a tangible loss of some sort.
There are several difficulties with a defamation claim, though. For one, you bear the burden of proof in establishing all the elements of the cause of action. It can be very difficult to prove that a false statement is actually untrue. It can also be very difficult to connect a false statement to a tangible damage of some kind. Lastly, even if you did succeed in a defamation lawsuit, it would likely cost you thousands of dollars, and then all you'd have is a paper judgment that you'd need to collect against an individual. Unless this individual has substantial financial assets, it will probably never be collected.
A cease a desist letter might be a good option, though. This would entail hiring an attorney to draft a letter to the person who has made the false accusation informing them that it is defamatory and that further spreading of the accusation will cause you to file a lawsuit. Most likely it is an empty threat for the reasons stated above, but most people want to avoid being sued and so cease and desist letters are often effective.
I hope that you find this information helpful and am genuinely sorry if it is not what you were hoping to hear. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.
If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes moving forward.