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Volunteering is an incredible act of kindness and service that allows you to play an important part in your community. It’s also a very popular activity. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, over 77 million Americans in 2018 volunteered with different organizations. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every activity in America, and volunteering is no different. While most volunteer opportunities have become more socially distanced or even completely virtual, there are always brave volunteers venturing out to help those exponentially impacted by the pandemic.

As cases rose throughout the country, volunteering became more complicated, and more dangerous. If a salaried worker catches COVID-19 from a co-worker, then they could be eligible for workers’ compensation that would cover medical bills, lost wages and even a hospital stay. But what happens if a volunteer comes in close proximity to the virus? Are they eligible to receive the same benefits? Let workers compensation lawyers, like from Hickey & Turim, SC, explain.

Are Volunteers Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

Typically, only paid employees of a company or organization are eligible for workers compensation. In most cases, to be eligible for workers compensation, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. You must be an employee
  2. You must work for a company that provides workers’ compensation 
  3. Your injury or illness must be work-related

Since volunteers are not considered “employees” of the organization they’re helping, they are not eligible for any type of workers compensation insurance. However, there are exceptions to the rule.

What Volunteers Receive Workers’ Compensation? 

If an individual is “paid in kind” by an organization, they could be considered an employee in a court of law. This means that volunteers receiving non-monetary payment for their services could receive the same workers’ compensation benefits as a salaried individuals. This could cover those who receive free meals in return for working the soup kitchen, or tenants who volunteer to repair the building in return for discounted rent. However, for this argument to hold up in court, you must be able to prove intent to enter a working relationship. This proof of intent could come in the form of an email from your landlord or an ongoing coupon or voucher. Gifts, thank you notes and tips will not count as evidence of intent.

So what happens if you get COVID-19 from a negligent co-worker while volunteering? If your organization does not cover workers’ compensation for volunteers, you could still file a personal injury claim against the organization. If you recently became ill or injured while volunteering, contact a workers’ compensation or personal injury lawyer today to discuss your options.

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