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In exchange for their services, AOL provided free service to their volunteers.Community Leaders also received special accounts (Price Index 77 or Overhead Accounts) that allowed them to restrict disruptive chat, hide inappropriate message board postings, and access private areas on the AOL service, such as the Community Leader Headquarters (CLHQ).The Department of Labor investigation, which, at least in part prompted AOL to limit Community Leader responsibilities, caused issues for the company.Without unpaid volunteers, the company would have to hire employees to manage and post online content and run effective online communities previously done by Community Leaders.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.

The company's later focus on advertising as its major source of income rather than high quality bespoke online content, an intention that began earlier in 1996 when subscriber hourly rates were replaced with a single unlimited-use monthly fee, provided the company little apparent profit incentive to monetize community forums.AOL offered volunteers 12 months of free service in compensation for their services.While many Community Leaders left the service after this announcement, others stayed with AOL and continued their efforts at building community, albeit in an unofficial role.Along with the DOL investigation, and with less need for well managed communities, and with membership in serious decline, AOL decided to terminate its volunteer program.In late May 2005, AOL informed its Community Leaders that they would be released from their positions on June 8 of that year.

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