Aol Case

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Case 1: AOL Community Leader Program

  • Definition - Group of volunteers in 90s who moderated chat rooms, message boards, and download libraries for AOL.
  • Class Action Suit - Two former Community Leaders filed a class action lawsuit against AOL, claiming that AOL volunteers performed work equivalent to employees and thus should be compensated according to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Arguments: The Community Leader position was an "employee relationship" with AOL. It required a significant amount of effort and detail:

1) Community Leaders had to undergo a thorough, 3-month training program. 2) Were required to file timecards for shifts. 3) Required to work at least four hours per week. 4) Needed to submit detailed reports outlining their work activity during each shift.

  • Inconclusive

The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the report, but came to no conclusions, officially closing the investigation in 2001.

  • AOL's response

In response to the investigation, AOL began drastically reducing volunteer responsibilities. By 2000, nearly all Community Leaders had lost content-editing rights and no longer provided customer service or technical support to AOL customers.

In February 2008, the court in which the lawsuit was filed denied AOL's Motion to Dismiss and certified the case for class-action status. The court has ordered AOL to provide the names and contact information for all former Community Leaders to notify them and give them the opportunity to join the class-action lawsuit.