Employment Law For Non-Profits

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 others, there are many legal considerations to take into account. In this blog, we will examine two key issues confronting non-profits: volunteers and independent contractors. By having a better understanding of these two issues, 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, because volunteers are not employees, there is a sense that employment laws do not cover them. Volunteers, however, sometimes claim they are really employees and as a result subject to employment laws.  It is important to understand when someone is truly a volunteer.  This is true because 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. 

Nonprofit organizations must establish clear policies that outline their scope of work and responsibilities, and especially identify their limitations. Like an employee, these policies should address concerns related to liability, insurance coverage, and potential compensation arrangements.  Nonprofits need to be particularly careful when their employees want to also act as volunteers.

In terms of federal law, you should be aware of the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA). This was enacted in 1997. This provides nonprofit organizations certain liability protections for volunteer activities. 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.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors are not employees and are not subject to the same employment laws as them. Like any business, it is critical that nonprofits 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 work under both direction and control of the employer.  Federal and state law determines when someone is a contractor versus an employee, and it is not a fixed analysis.  In other words, it is determined on a case by case basis.   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.

Call 314-965-2277 now or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our highly skilled attorneys today.