The following blog post is by Family Council staff member Deborah Beuerman.

Robert Longley reports the Obama administration apparently does not support a woman-owned business that helps financially-struggling parents buy children’s clothing at affordable prices.

Rhea Lana Riner of Conway founded her children’s clothing consignment sale business, Rhea Lana’s, Inc, to enable parents and other family members sell children’s clothing to other families.

“At Rhea Lana’s sales, people selling items on consignment were offered the option to volunteer to assist at the event in return for a chance to shop before the sale opens to the public. During the sales, the volunteers performed general tasks such as greeting shoppers, picking up fallen price tags, reorganizing items that shoppers have handled, and assisting shoppers with carrying items to their vehicles.”

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) says that is against the law and banned Rhea Lana’s from allowing volunteers to assist at its sales. The DOL says the volunteers were actually Rhea Lana’s “employees” under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and as such should have been paid and are now entitled to back pay in accordance with FLSA minimum wage provisions.

“For years we have received overwhelming support from the families who are trying to save money and provide for their children through our sales,” said Rhea Lana Riner, in a press statement. “Yet now we find ourselves having to defend how moms choose to use their personal time to benefit their families.  For the government to step in and overregulate our business and our industry just makes no sense.  We’re fighting back to protect our business and the families we serve.”

The government accountability group Cause of Action has filed a lawsuit against the DOL  on the behalf of Rhea Lana, Inc.

“DOL erred in applying a categorical ban against volunteerism in this context,” stated Reed Rubinstein, senior vice president of litigation at Cause of Action in a press release. “It should have applied the Supreme Court’s ‘economic realities’ test, which requires the agency to consider all relevant facts and circumstances when determining the applicability of the FLSA.  The economic realities of Rhea Lana’s consignment events do not create an employee-employer relationship between Rhea Lana’s and its volunteers.”

“This illogical move by the Department of Labor demonstrates just how out-of-date their regulations are and how far they are willing to go to shut down free enterprise,” added Cause of Action’s executive director, Dan Epstein. “We are facing a government that is essentially telling Americans:  we want to meddle in the minute details of how and where you volunteer.”