Volunteer Labor and Workers' Compensation: interns and injuries

If workers' compensation charges premium based on payroll, are volunteers covered? And how is premium charged?

Each jurisdiction, that is each state, has its own rules. This post will give general rules and background.

Municipal volunteers, for example: firemen, emergency medical technicians, some police or crosswalk guards, and board members, generally receive coverage under state workers' compensation laws.

Some states require workers' compensation for emergency responders such as the Red Cross or Salvation Army volunteers.

The definition of remuneration differs from state to state. Cash payroll is the sole determinant sometimes, and room, board, meals, or free services count in other cases.

Of course, any claim made is subject to court interpretation of the state statutes.

Businesses should be mindful of their workers' compensation laws when considering offering an internship or other volunteer labor position. Is experience remuneration? Do you provide a gift, travel, per diem, uniforms, or anything of value to your interns? If so, your state may confer employee status on interns.

Do you want interns covered under workers' compensation? You have a moral obligation to pay for the cost of injuries on your site. Would you prefer to be sued under your general liability, have a no-fault coverage like workers' compensation or premises medical payments handle the claim, or offer an accident policy to volunteers?

No matter your standard operating procedure, it pays to have a protocol in place to handle interns and volunteers potential injuries before the claim occurs. Check your state regulations to assure proper definition of volunteer labor.

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