Soup Kitchen Injury? Paid Volunteering and Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is provided to any worker injured while “in the course of performing work-related duties.” Some employers and insurance companies have contested claims when the accident occurred while an employee was at a work function or outside of the office. A new trend in larger companies raises questions about workers’ compensation: volunteering on the clock.


Companies, including U.S. Bank, are offering employees the ability to volunteer their time while still on the clock. A recent NPR report chronicles the work of several U.S. Bank employees who are able to spend up to 16 hours a year at a soup kitchen. While the program gives employees the opportunity to give back and certainly gives the business “community credit,” what does it mean for workers’ compensation? Our Greensboro workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in protecting the rights of all employees who have suffered a job-related injury.

In similar programs nationwide, employers are allowing their employees to remain on the clock while volunteering their time at local organizations. Some of the employees admit that they wouldn’t have time or wouldn’t do the volunteer work, if it wasn’t for their employer’s incentives. Still, this boosts the morale of workers, bolsters camaraderie between workers, and also gives back to the community. For many workers this is a positive outlet. For employers, the program also has a number of benefits. But does the volunteer worker program complicate workers’ compensation claims?

Though these jobs are not necessarily dangerous, an injury could occur while on site. Some of the volunteers will be reading to children or working in soup kitchens. In a non-profit organization, companies will not have control over the safety work zones.

The programs mirror law firm pro bono projects, which give lawyers the opportunity to take on cases for free while also making an impact. They are able to use their work hours to pursue greater social causes. Business-minds also see the benefit in making their employees feel as though they are doing important and meaningful work. Companies portray the volunteer programs as an incentive and admit that the it helps to keep workers feeling engaged and on the payroll.

Employees admit that they like to feel excited about getting up and doing positive work. The volunteer programs may be a positive asset in the modern work day; however, they could pose problems with workers’ compensation claims. Arguably, since the employees are on the clock, companies should be liable for compensation when an employee is injured in a soup kitchen or while performing other volunteer duties.

In the event of a workplace accident involving an off-site injury, workers should follow the same procedures to file a claim. Every case is unique, so the success depends on the circumstances and documentation. Whether the injury was “work-related” depends on whether attendance was mandatory, whether employees were paid, whether the volunteering occurred during work hours, and whether the injury occurred on or offsite.

All of these factors will be considered when filing a workers’ compensation claim. Having an experienced and independent advocate to review your case will improve you opportunities for an effective claim.

If you or someone you love has suffered work injury in North or South Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 1-800-887-1965 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Entries:

U.S. Craft Breweries Put Worker Safety at Risk, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, July 19, 2013

New Legislation Aims to Bolster OSHA Role in Worker Safety, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 25, 2013

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