Scouts-L Mail Archive for November of 1998: Federal Law Protects Nonprofit Volunteers
Federal Law Protects Nonprofit Volunteers
Donald R Izard
Tue, 3 Nov 1998 14:48:15 -0500
There was a recent request on the list for information about
legal protection for Nonprofit Volunteers:
I found the following:
Act reduces standard of liability to gross negligence, flagrant
Volunteers for charities and other nonprofit entities have
an additional line of defense against the threat of
personal liability now that Congress has finally
passed a federal Volunteer Protection Act.
Acting in the euphoria for citizen service following the Presidents
Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia in April, Congress passed with fanfare
a bill that had been languishing in both House and Senate, in various
forms, for a decade.
The new law (42 USCA Sec. 14501 et seq.) generally provides that
volunteers will not be personally liable for their acts or omissions if
they are acting within the scope of their responsibility for the
organization and the harm 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."
A volunteer is a person who performs services for the organization
without compensation, other than reasonable reimbursement or allowance
for expenses actually incurred, or "any other thing of value in lieu of
compensation, in excess of $500 per year." If this standard is met, a
volunteer would include a person serving on the board of directors or a
building committee, or a person teaching classes. If might even include
individuals not normally thought of as volunteers, such as officers of
the entity or apprentices providing services to the organization. The key
in each case is whether the statutory definition
of a volunteer is met. Volunteers for governmental entities are also
A "nonprofit organization" is one classified as exempt from tax as a
charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or "any
not-for-profit organization which is organized and conducted for PUBLIC !
benefit and operated primarily for charitable, civic, educational,
religious, welfare, or health purposes." An organization
does not qualify if it perpetrates hate crimes.
Although the law provides a benefit to volunteers, it will not in most
cases reduce the recovery of a victim. Since the Act does not eliminate
liability of the organization itself for the acts or omissions of its
volunteer agents, and since most nonprofits maintain insurance to protect
themselves and their volunteers, most cases will continue to be settled
by insurance coverage from the organizations insurer.