Bartering and Unemployment

(An Oregon campground owner writes...)

I have an RV park that I have used the barter system. The person that came to me requested to barter two days a week in the office working behind the counter and taking in campers and res., for trade of her space rent of $800.00 month, with electricity, cable, and wifi included. She worked for 12 hours in two days. We had to let her go for a variety of reasons. She stayed in her space for one week.

She went to the unemployment office and said we never paid her. The unemployment office is telling us we cannot legally barter with her and that we owe her the money for hours worked. The unemployment office said we can only barter if she was in outside person (yard work) or being trained for assistant manager.

So, are we all doing wrong? How do we prove different to the unemployment office if our workers decide to claim wages against us? Workers walk away with free rent plus a paycheck. Any help on this one?

Coleen, the working while RVing editor replies:

First off, I'm not an accountant or attorney, so I can't give you tax advice or legal advice. For those, you need to see the appropriate expert.

Here are some things that might make a difference. You might want to discuss these points with your accountant and/or attorney.

Did you issue her a pay stub showing the value of the site and utilities, one that listed how much you paid in for social security tax, FICA, and all those other withholdings and things you have to pay?

Do you have any sort of written agreement that shows how you arrived at the barter exchange rate? Something that says she is to work x number of hours at however much per hour to equal the site/utilities valued at so many dollars? Does that clearly show that she is (was) making at least minimum wage?

Did you require that she live at your campground to do the job? Or could she have lived somewhere else and shown up when she was to work, worked her shift, and then left for the day?

Have you contacted your labor board to ask them about bartering?

Have you asked the unemployment office for a copy of that law. so that you can learn more about what is and isn't allowed?

The best advice I can give you is to suggest that you talk to your attorney. You'll probably want to know how things really are, not only for this situation, but for future ones as well.

I'd be interested in knowing how all this turns out.

Go to the Workers On Wheels Work for RVers and Campers blog.

Comments for Bartering and Unemployment

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Coleen makes several good points that you need to research, depending on the state that you are in.

Most importantly, I feel you should ask your labor board to provide you the rules that pertain to this situation. Once you have that you will be in a better position to move to your other options.

BTW, are you in AZ?

Exchanging Work for Site

My understanding is that "barter" equals employment. However, you might want to explore the concept of "volunteer." Of course, this would require some flexibility on the part of the owners, due to the IRS definition of "employee," which gives total control of the time to the owner. If you review these terms, I believe it will help.

Independent Contractor

Anonymous, I think you mean "independent contractor," not "volunteer."

Can't say the word

Evidently, she was mad at the campground owners for getting rid of her. I think they said they left her go for various reasons.

Number one, they can go to small claims court for the payment of lot rent. Leaving without paying is Theft of Services. (Should get her attention?)

Then when she wants to talk, give her a stub for minimum wage for the hours worked and tell her to drop the suit or you will follow through with your suit. If she decides to drop the suit you want an agreement signed in front of an official and notarized. Sounds like a long road but it gets attention.

I'm not a campground owner, just a camper, and I think a person that would do something like that (mad or not) should be horsewhipped. Not a good camper at all, and definitely not a representative of the camping family. I will soon be fulltiming and hope that stupidity like that will not ruin workamping for the honest campers among us.

God bless America and God bless our seniors.

Thank you,

Independant Worker

Have them sign the federal papers for an independent contractor. That way, there are no federal taxes or social taken out. I don't know how your state handles local taxes.

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