The U.S. Department of Labor is looking into what student “volunteers” are being asked to do in order to be a part of the Associated Student Body at San Diego High School.
According to a contract between the ASB and Elite Show Services Incorporated, students at SDHS worked as parking attendants for special events such as Chargers games.
In return for their volunteer work, the for-profit company in charge of traffic control would donate money to the school’s ASB.
The contract stated that Elite would pay the “charity,” or ASB, $40 per volunteer for a shift under nine hours, or $75 per person for a shift longer than nine hours. If all volunteers showed up for the event, the ASB would get bonuses.
“A lot does depend on the length of the shift,” said Employment Attorney Rich Paul, who says there are questions about whether the pay was below minimum wage. “If that's a three hour shift, that's $13 an hour, if that's a nine hour shift, that's $4 and change an hour.”
Paul is not involved in the case but did read some of the documents provided by NBC 7, including a letter from the San Diego Unified School District to Elite Show Services. The letter makes clear the school district does not endorse this contract, and indeed, that San Diego' High's ASB does not even have the power to enter into such an agreement, which the district called "patently illegal."
The DOL is asking the district to document who worked, how many hours, where and under whose supervision.
Elite Services was not available for comment, and the School District is closed for business this week, taking furlough days while students are out for the holidays.
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said it is investigating an “unpaid internship issue.” Beyond that confirmation, it could not comment further.
According to the documents, the Department of Labor is asking the district to look at other schools that potentially may be party to similar contracts, such as high schools in Clairemont, Mission Bay, Sierra High and University City.