Service Learning Network

Relevant Legislation

The following pieces of legislation have significant consequences for the facilitation of service learning programs:

Volunteer Protection Act of 1997- states that "no volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity shall be liable for harm caused by an act of omission of the volunteer on behalf of the organization or entity," as long as certain conditions are met:

  • the volunteer must have been acting within the scope of his/her responsibilities at the organization at the time of the omission
  • the volunteer had completed any necessary license, certification, or authorization requirements needed to carry out the activities within his/her scope of responsibilities at the organization
  • "the harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer"
  • the harm was not caused by the volunteer operating a motor vehicle for which the state requires the owner/operator to hold an operator's license and maintain insurance1

Awareness and understanding of this legislation may alleviate the concerns of students, parents, and members of the university and extended community regarding the perceived risks of participating in service learning programs.


Fair Labor Standards Act- establishes, based upon prior rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, the idea that volunteers are not to be considered employees of the organization or agency for which they provide services.  For this reason, organizations are prohibited from utilizing volunteers to replace previously-paid staff members.  While this likely does not affect much short-term and one-time service learning involvements, it may be relevant when determining task assignments for students completing long-term service learning commitments at the same organization.2






Page last modified September 11, 2011