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Volunteers and Workers' Comp Coverage

 

Who is a volunteer?

A volunteer is a person who donates labor to another by his or her own free choice. Generally, the volunteer doesn’t receive anything of value in exchange for the service — not money, trade of products or services, or anything else of monetary value.

When is a volunteer a “covered worker”?

If a volunteer receives something of monetary value in exchange for work, he or she is probably a “covered worker” who is entitled by law to workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

Maintenance and reimbursed expenses
Your business or organization may provide volunteers with maintenance and reimbursement for necessary actual expenses. “Maintenance” includes things such as meals and transient sleeping quarters while performing assigned or authorized volunteer duties. However, if a person receives any type of money or other value in excess of the expenses, he or she may be considered a covered worker.

Stipends
If your business or organization claims someone as a volunteer and pays the person a stipend, the amount paid and its relation to the work performed must be evaluated to determine whether it is maintenance and reimbursement or is compensation for labor provided.

Gifts of appreciation
Gifts of appreciation do not transform a volunteer into a worker, and must be evaluated to determine whether they are maintenance or reimbursement, a token of appreciation, or compensation for labor provided.

Unpaid job training
Unpaid job training received with the promise of a future paid job with a specific employer not in connection with a school-approved program is considered value in exchange for work performed.

Questions?

If you have questions about volunteer status, contact our Workers' Comp Coverage Determinations Unit at Determinations@Lni.wa.gov or 509-324-2627 for a determination of coverage.

Note: Each situation will be reviewed in full context of the relevant facts to determine status. If workers do not meet the criteria above, they are presumed to be employees. In addition to workers' compensation insurance coverage requirements, other employer requirements such as minimum wage, unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare may apply.

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