Arizona Court: Volunteers are not Employees for ADA Purposes

A recent Arizona case ruled that volunteers are not employees when determining employer size for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Solander v. South Ponderosa Stables (D. Ariz. 2015). The court also held the defendant’s commonly owned businesses were not an “integrated entity.” Under the ADA, an employer must count all the employees of an integrated entity when determining if the employer meets the 15-employee threshold.

South Ponderosa Stables (Ponderosa) hired Mr. Solander as a stable worker in 2012, terminating his employment five months later. Solander claimed his termination violated the ADA and the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA). Ponderosa argued they had, at most, 13 employees, making the ADA and ACRA inapplicable. Solander argued that Ponderosa must count the volunteers they occasionally used as employees to determine the 15-employee threshold. The court looked at the activities the volunteers performed, determined they were truly volunteers, and concluded they should not count as employees under the ADA or the ACRA.

Solander next argued that Ponderosa was an integrated entity, as its owner owned two other horse ranches. However, the horse ranches did not have interrelated operations, common management, centralized control, or labor relations. Thus, the court determined the three ranches were not an integrated entity and Ponderosa did not have to count the employees of the other horse ranches toward the 15-employee threshold.

Many employment laws apply only when an employer meets a threshold number of employees. Employers on the cusp of an employee threshold regarding a specific employment law should contact us with their questions. We are happy to help.