As a nonprofit organization, you most likely depend upon volunteers to help you thrive, whether they are volunteering on an ongoing basis or pitching in for special events. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64.5 million people volunteered in the United States through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012. Numbers of volunteers seem to be increasing slightly, possibly the result of the Volunteer Protection Act, which limits lawsuits for volunteers. While the increase in volunteers is great news for non-profits, volunteer participation is not without risk. You need to consider ways to protect your organization from exposure due to volunteer actions.
What is the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA)?
The Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) was signed into law in 1997 to encourage people to participate in social service organizations on a voluntary basis. The VPA states that “No volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity shall be liable for harm caused by an act or omission of the volunteer acting on behalf of the organization or entity.”
Under the VPA, volunteers are protected as long as they adhere to a set of conditions, such as the following:
· They have proper licenses or certificates for the job they are performing
· Any harm caused is not as a result of operating a motor vehicle
· Any harm caused is not “caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed.”
· Volunteer actions are not found to be crimes of violence, hate, sexual in nature; are not committed while under the influence of alcohol; or are not violations of civil rights, labor, or tax provisions.
States may impose additional conditions on volunteers under this Act.
What is missing from the Volunteer Protection Act?
The Volunteer Protection Act is a worthy piece of legislation. However, while the VPA protects volunteers against litigation arising from their social service, it does not protect the nonprofit organization itself from litigation. The organization may still be liable for the negligent actions of the volunteer. Furthermore, compensated individuals, including employees and any compensated officers, are not immune from litigation.
How can you protect your nonprofit from liability?
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance protects your organization from lawsuits involving bodily injury and property damage. The policy automatically covers the “business” named on the policy as well as employees. You should consider adding volunteers as insured.
Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance
D&O Liability Insurance serves to protect an individual and entity against significant exposures which may not be covered under volunteer protection laws. Until a court determines whether the volunteer protection law applies to a volunteer, D&O insurance can serve to indemnify the association and volunteer against legal defense costs.
Volunteer Accident Insurance
Volunteer accident policies provide a certain limit of coverage, usually for medical expenses. They respond when a volunteer is injured in an accident while engaged in activities for the benefit of the organization.
Rollins wants your organization, and your valued volunteers, to be protected as you perform your important services to your community. Contact your Rollins representative for more information on how we can help you.