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I read that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends the use of a signed disclosure form for volunteer workers. The article is called "Employing Interns" and is described as follows:

The article discusses pragmatic reasons for employing interns, practical considerations with employing interns and compliance with U.S. law concerning internships.

The Conclusions section of the article states:

Employers with unpaid internship programs should develop standard disclosure forms to be signed by prospective interns acknowledging, among other things, that no job is being offered in connection with the successful or unsuccessful completion of the internship. The internship should have specific start and stop dates. In addition, the employer should obtain the intern's signature on a document stating the intern understands that he or she is participating in a valid internship and therefore will not be entitled to wages (or only to minimum wages) for the time spent in the internship. On this matter, the employer should probably consult with legal counsel, and legal counsel will probably want the document to include much more detail. The greater the number of interns involved, the greater the risk if the details are overlooked.

Misclassification of interns as trainees rather than employees could result in the interns being deemed employees eligible for Social Security withholding and matching, unemployment insurance benefits and workers' compensation. The tax ramifications for an organization having "employees" for whom FICA taxes have not been withheld and paid can be substantial, including a 100 percent penalty for FICA withholding not actually paid by the employer.

For large-scale and ongoing internship programs in which the employer wants to pay less than the applicable minimum wage or overtime, legal counsel should be consulted.

I would like to know whether Stack Exchange has developed, and whether it's in the habit of getting signatures on, a "standard disclosure form" for its new moderators. If so, what does it say, and approximately when was it instituted?

Is "unpaid internship" a reasonable approximate description of the role of a volunteer moderator?

My research: a Bloomberglaw article states:

[Under current law] a position can be properly classified as an unpaid internship if the intern is truly the primary beneficiary of the working relationship.


Update:

I've done some more research into the employment status of volunteer moderators at SE. Rather than completely rewriting this question, I'd like to get rid of it and start fresh. But apparently I'm not supposed to delete it, because it has a good answer. So I am voting to close. Weird, I know, but that's the best solution I could think of.

  • iirc the moderators don't sign anything per-se, just agree to the moderator agreement. – Magisch Oct 29 at 8:03
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    Since that whole article appears to be about internships, it doesn't apply to SE moderators. – Cerbrus Oct 29 at 8:38
  • @Cerbrus Although isn't it true that some mods have successfully applied for job positions within SE? – Mari-Lou A Oct 29 at 11:06
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    @Mari-LouA: that still doesn’t involve internships, though. – Cerbrus Oct 29 at 11:19
  • @Cerbrus true but it does suggest if you have been successful in curating and moderating a site, as a loyal and judicious volunteer, you stand a better chance of being hired. Just a thought. – Mari-Lou A Oct 29 at 11:23
  • @Mari-LouA - I was thinking along those lines, too. – aparente001 Oct 29 at 16:45
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No, we don't sign a standard disclosure form. All we have to sign is the moderator agreement, and it does not mention anything along the lines of "no job is being offered in connection with the successful or unsuccessful completion of the internship". That makes sense, because it's not an internship:

I acknowledge and agree that I am an independent volunteer moderator to Meta Stack Exchange and I am not an employee, agent or representative of Stack Exchange Inc. and I have no authority to bind Stack Exchange Inc. in any manner. Stack Exchange Inc. reserves the right to terminate my privileges as a moderator at any time without warning.

Thousands of companies and organizations in the US and around the world have volunteers other than internships, so IMHO "unpaid internship" isn't the right classification for the job position of a ♦ moderator.

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