This Subchapter establishes procedures and guidelines for acceptance and use of volunteer services in Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP). The purpose of the program is to provide volunteers with an unpaid opportunity to develop valuable work place skills, connect and network with professionals in their specialized area(s) of interest, explore the federal work environment and learn about the mission and responsibilities of MRP and the Department of Agriculture. By providing structured, meaningful work assignments, volunteers can be an important component of marketing MRP as an employer of choice.
Academic Standing - Academic standing is comprised of both the minimum grade point average (GPA) and satisfactory academic progress as established by the academic program. A student is determined to be in good standing at the conclusion of any matriculated term in which the student has achieved:
- a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale; or
- the minimum GPA requirements of the academic program in which the student is enrolled if greater than 2.0; or
- the minimum academic requirements based on the grading system established by the qualifying academic program in which the student is enrolled (i.e. vocational or business school); and
- the student meets all requirements established by his/her academic institution to be considered in good academic standing.
Half Time Enrollment Status - The minimum hours or credit hours a student is required to be enrolled as certified by the educational institution to be eligible for non-paid student employment.
Regular Volunteer - Individual providing assistance to USDA, MRP programs under 7 USC 2272 without compensation.
Student - An individual who must be enrolled at least half time in a high school, trade school, technical or vocational institute, 2 or 4-year college or university or other accredited educational institution. Home schooled students may participate provided they are studying in an accredited home school or a home-school curriculum approved by their state.
Student Volunteer Service - Non-compensated service performed under 5 U.S.C. 3111, with the permission of the academic institution at which the student is enrolled, as part of an agency program established for providing educational experience for students.
- USDA, Marketing and Regulatory Programs are authorized to recruit, train, and accept volunteer services in carrying out programs of the Agency.
- Volunteer opportunities are open to all interested persons without regard to race, color, religion, age (except as provided by OPM and DOL regulations), sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or any other nonmerit factor.
- Volunteer service may not displace any employee nor may it be used to staff a position that is a normal part of the work force.
- Volunteer program participants may not receive salary payments, but regular (non-student) volunteers may receive payment of incidental expenses in accordance with USDA authorization 7 U.S.C. 2272a.
- Volunteer contributions may be recognized with letters of appreciation, certificates of accomplishments, or other forms of non-monetary recognition. Management officials must adhere to all applicable MRP and USDA policy governing use of non-monetary recognition.
- Student volunteer service must comply with Department of Labor regulations, which place restrictions on the employment of individuals under the age of 18 years.
- Student volunteer service must comply with Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations governing student volunteers.
- Services of a volunteer program participant may be terminated at any time for any reason deemed appropriate by either party.
- In accord with USDA policy, the minimum age for a volunteer is 14. Employment certificates or work permits required by state or local authorities must be obtained before the volunteer may begin the volunteer assignment. For information on employment certification/work permits specific to each state visit the DOL Wage and Hour Division website.
- Volunteers are not appointed to a federal position and are not considered Federal employees; therefore, U.S. citizenship is not required. However, individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents must have been lawfully admitted to the United States and may volunteer with proper authorization to work in the United States. For information on U.S. immigration laws and U.S. citizenship, go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website.
- Personnel security requirements must be evaluated based on the level of access required as determined by the volunteer’s assignment and/or need for unescorted access in a Federal facility.
- Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) mandates that all Government agencies maintain specific and consistent standards for physical and personnel identification systems. Volunteers may need a LincPass or site badge to access USDA systems and or facilities according to procedures described in DM 4620-002.
Motor Vehicle Operation
- Volunteers may only use a Government-owned Vehicle (GOV) under supervisory direction on specific tasks to conduct official business in support of the MRP mission in accordance with MRP 5400 - Marketing and Regulatory Programs Motor Vehicle Manual (Employees Only). Although there is no exclusion of volunteers from operating GOVs, authorization shall be reserved to those occasions when no other practical option exists. All drivers are required to be in the drug free workplace program. There should be no drivers under the age of 18. The supervisor will ensure Chapter 3 (WHO MAY OPERATE GOVERNMENT MOTOR VEHICLES) of the Fleet Manual is followed and all training is documented, qualifications/licenses are validated as appropriate, and ensure that the volunteer knows the GSA, USDA, and MRP requirements and procedures for the Official use of a GOV per Chapter 1 (OFFICIAL USE OF MRP MOTOR VEHICLES) of the Fleet Manual.
Since the Agency will be responsible for any mishap that may occur while volunteers are performing their duties, prudent use of this authority is required.
- Public notice of volunteer opportunities is not required. Supervisors who wish to advertise a volunteer opportunity should contact the Human Resources Division, Volunteer Service Program Coordinator (VSPC) for assistance.