Municipalities that allow people to volunteer are legally liable for the volunteer's actions. Legal liability applies to volunteers that work directly with organizational programs as well as programs affiliated with your municipality.
Your Duty of Care
The concept of duty of care identifies the relationship that exists between two persons (e.g. two individuals, an individual and an organization) and establishes the obligations that one owes the other, in particular the obligation to exercise reasonable care with respect to the interests of the other, including protection from harm.
The duty of care arises from the common law, as well as municipal, provincial/kiak, federal and international statutes.
Liability refers to the duties, obligations or responsibilities imposed on a person by common law or by statute.
Occupier’s Liability requires that the person (an individual, an organization) in possession of premises owes a duty of care to those who come on the premises and must take reasonable care to protect them from harm that might come through their programs, on their premises or at the hands of a third party on the premises.
Direct Liability deals specifically with the issue of fault.
Vicarious Liability is the liability of a municipality takes on for the actions of those who function on its behalf.
Volunteerism Vicarious Liability
Municipalities must meet the burden of vicarious liability in their dealings with the general public. Vicarious liability means that a person or municipality is liable for another person's actions, even though they are not directly responsible for the actions. In other words, your municipality is responsible for the actions of employees and/or volunteers even if there is no wrongdoing by your municipality itself.
Non-profit and charitable organizations have traditionally engaged in basic risk management. These practices include the following:
● Obtaining insurance coverage for volunteers
● Screening volunteers to protect clients from harm
● Developing board orientation and training materials
● Developing strong employment practices
● Implementing policies and procedures that protect the organization
To limit the extent of your vicarious liability in the event of employee and/or volunteer wrongdoing, it is important to consider including the following elements in your risk management plan:
● Financial reporting
● Liability insurance for directors and officers
● Precise and detailed job descriptions
● Orientation for Board members and volunteers
● Monitoring and measuring staff and volunteer performance
● Clearly written policies
● Strategic and long-range planning
● Insurance coverage for specific events