The federal Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) applies to “volunteers.” Under the VPA, a “volunteer” is a person (including a director, officer, trustee, or direct service volunteer) who performs services for a “nonprofit organization” or a governmental entity and does not receive:
(1) compensation (other than reasonable reimbursement or allowance for expenses actually incurred); or
(2) any other thing of value in lieu of compensation, in excess of $500 per year.
The VPA defines a “nonprofit organization” as:
(1) any organization that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is tax exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code; or
(2) 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 that commits a hate crime within the meaning of the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act does not qualify as a nonprofit organization under the VPA.
The VPA provides that a volunteer is immune from civil liability for harm caused by his act or omission if:
(1) the volunteer was acting within the scope of his responsibilities for the nonprofit organization or governmental entity at the time of the act or omission;
(2) the volunteer was properly licensed or certified, if required by state law;
(3) the harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious and flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the person who was harmed by the volunteer; and
(4) the harm was not caused by the volunteer operating a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle for which the state requires an operator to have an operator’s license or insurance.
A volunteer is not immune under the VPA if he has committed a crime of violence or international terrorism, a hate crime, a sexual offense, or a civil rights violation. The VPA does not apply if the volunteer was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the harm.
Note that the VPA does not prohibit a lawsuit against a volunteer by the nonprofit organization or governmental entity. Also, the VPA does not grant immunity to the nonprofit organization or governmental entity. The VPA only applies to volunteers.