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Adult chat room and message board

The program's roots dated back to the use of online remote volunteer "guides" by AOL predecessor Quantum Link at its start in 1985.The system which became AOL established the Community Leader Program officially in the early 1990s, and discontinued it in 2005.

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Millions of people have suffered this disability and many of them do not have have the benefit of a stroke support group. Always here, our stroke support group is available 24/7.It also provided oversight with respect to forum content by knowledgeable individuals.In May 1999, Kelly Hallisey and Brian Williams, two former Community Leaders, filed a class action lawsuit against AOL, claiming that AOL volunteers performed work equivalent to employees and thus should be compensated according to the Fair Labor Standards Act.At the peak of the program, it is estimated that AOL had approximately 14,000 volunteers, Community Leaders had a wide variety of responsibilities, ranging from hosting chat rooms, monitoring message boards and file libraries, providing customer service, teaching online classes, and particularly creating and managing forum content.However, toward the end of the program, Community Leader duties were generally restricted to monitoring chat and message boards.Although at times controversial, the Community Leader program arguably played a substantial role in the rapid growth and success of the America Online service in the mid-1990s.

Because they were usually recruited from the more active users of a particular online forum, Community Leaders were often very passionate about the area for which they volunteered their time.

The plaintiffs argued that the Community Leader position required a significant amount of effort and detail to qualify the position as having an "employee relationship" with AOL.

The plaintiffs specifically demonstrated how Community Leaders had to undergo a thorough, 3-month training program and were required to file timecards for shifts, work at least four hours per week, and submit detailed reports outlining their work activity during each shift.

This fact actually hurt AOL when the lawsuit began, however, as the reception of benefits (along with whether the work is full-time and displaces regular employees) is a factor that helps the Department of Labor determine if a volunteer should actually be paid. In response to the investigation, AOL began drastically reducing volunteer responsibilities.

By 2000, nearly all Community Leaders had lost content-editing rights and no longer provided customer service or technical support to AOL customers.

The Department of Labor investigation, which, at least in part prompted AOL to limit Community Leader responsibilities, caused issues for the company.