At Beckemeier LeMoine Law, we believe that nonprofit organizations are integral parts of our communities and provide vital services. Before a nonprofit organization can serve and cater to others, there are many legal considerations to take into account. Employment laws apply differently to their unique circumstances, and in this blog, we will examine two key areas where this is the case: volunteers and independent contractors. By having a finer understanding of these two aspects, nonprofit organizations can comply with state and federal laws while also creating an environment that supports those who carry out their mission.
On the surface, having and working alongside volunteers may lead to the assumption that employment laws don’t impact them. This mindset may lead them to overlook key details. The danger becomes when nonprofits overlook several important legal factors when you engage with them. Volunteers are critical for building relationships and networks, expanding your services and reach, utilizing varied skill sets and perspectives, and benefiting from cost-effective support. Both the nonprofit and the people they serve may rely heavily on volunteers. Additionally, community members can be a part of the nonprofit’s vital mission.
Because of this, nonprofit organizations must establish clear policies that outline their scope of work and responsibilities, and even identify their limitations. Like an employee, these policies should address concerns related to liability, insurance coverage, and potential compensation arrangements.
In terms of federal law, you should be aware of the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA). This was enacted in 1997. Without it, nonprofit organizations may avoid working with volunteers for liability reasons. This does not shield an organization completely, but the VPA offers limited protections if they meet the following conditions:
- The volunteer acted within the scope of their responsibilities. The importance of “scope of work” has already been stated above.
- The volunteer was licensed, certified, or authorized for the specific assignment or activity.
- Harm was not caused due to willful or criminal misconduct.
- Harm was not caused because the volunteer was operating a vehicle where an operator’s license or insurance was required.
This is a mistake that many businesses outside of nonprofits make. Independent contractors are not employees and are not subject to the same employment laws as them. Like any business, it is critical that they accurately distinguish their employees from their independent contractors. The difference between the two is that independent contractors are self-employed because they retain control over how and when the work is performed. Employees are often trained and work under both direction and control.
Misclassification can lead to severe legal repercussions, which extend to paying unpaid wages and damages.
Missouri & Illinois Non-Profit Counsel
Our skilled attorneys assist nonprofit entities with formation, tax exemption, governance, and employment matters. Our role is to understand the wide-ranging regulatory issues that govern nonprofit organizations on state and federal levels. We will guide you through board governance, compensation issues, and the daily challenges you will likely face. To speak with one of our attorneys, contact Beckemeier LeMoine Law to schedule your consultation.