hourglass-small.jpg This Blog post was authored by Lisa Charbonneau

Many schools, colleges, and municipalities operate special programs and camps during the summer months.  Staffing these programs and camps frequently involves hiring temporary or “seasonal” personnel, such as lifeguards, camp counselors, swim instructors and boathouse attendants.  In recognition that many seasonal employees’ work days differ from that of the full-time, permanent employee, the law provides employers of such employees some exemptions to state and federal overtime and minimum wage requirements, if one of the following exemptions apply:

 California’s Organized Camp Exemption

If you operate what California law defines as an “organized camp,” your camp counselors may qualify for the “organized camp” exception to the California state minimum wage requirement.  This exception is set forth in California Labor Code section 1182.4.  To qualify as an “organized camp,” the camp must be accredited by or otherwise meet the minimum standards of the American Camping Association.  In addition, the camp’s programs and facilities must have been established for the primary purpose of providing an “outdoor group living experience” for five days or more.  (Cal. Health & Safety Code §18897.)  The law does not currently define “outdoor group living experience.”  If both requirements are met, full-time camp or program counselors need only make a weekly salary of 85% of the state minimum wage for a forty-hour week, regardless of the number of hours worked.  Counselors who work less than 40 hours per week may be paid 85% of the state minimum hourly wage for each hour worked.  This exemption may be especially relevant for schools or municipalities with outdoor recreation facilities such as campgrounds or ranches.

Note that on May 22, 2015, the California State Senate passed SB 476, which, if passed, will expand the scope of the organized camp exemption (click here for more on the status of the legislative bill.)  In relevant part, the bill would eliminate the “outdoor” aspect of the “group living experience” requirement from the legal definition of organized camp and would amend the definition to explicitly include day camps. Assuming the bill’s wording remains the same, its passage into law would mean more camp employees would fall under this exemption.

The F.L.S.A.’s Recreational Establishment Exemption

In addition, employees employed by seasonal “recreational establishments” or organized camps may be exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  (29 U.S.C. §213(a)(3).) To qualify for the exemption, the establishment must not operate for more than seven months in any calendar year, or the establishment’s receipts for any six months of the preceding calendar year cannot be more than one third of its average receipts for the other six months of the preceding calendar year.  (Id.) The term “establishment” means a “distinct physical place,” such as a summer camp, a golf course, a fairground, or a swimming pool.  This exemption may be especially relevant for municipal entities that operate seasonal pools and boathouses, or operate seasonal programs at distinct physical sites, such as a seasonal camp at a golf course or nature center.