The purpose of engaging a volunteer is to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship between adviser and volunteer. A volunteer is donating their time in exchange for deepened understanding of a method or process, adviser mentorship, and introductory practical experience. Because volunteers are completing work free of pay, it’s important that their work expectations fit those of a volunteer donating their time, and not as a student employee receiving pay.
Who is a volunteer?
The US Department of Labor defines ‘volunteers’ as : “…(i)ndividuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, (and) are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service.”
Volunteer work is intended to be altruistic and is performed for public or non-profit entities only. Volunteers do not receive wages or academic credit. Visiting employees, researchers from other institutions, or interns are not volunteers. A volunteer can receive a modest stipend or other reimbursement of expenses and still be considered a volunteer.
Departments must not displace a paid employee with an individual willing to forgo compensation. If the tasks assigned to a volunteer constitute the same work as performed by a paid worker, the volunteer may not be a volunteer according to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Similarly, it is not appropriate to have a volunteer fill a job when there is an expectation of future pay, such as an individual performing the duties of an offered job while waiting for the employment visa to be approved.
One-time visitors, lectures, or presenters are not volunteers and the compliance measures and onboarding process at the end of this document do not apply to them.
Volunteers on visas
The Department of Homeland Security determines what international visitors on visas in the U.S. can and cannot do, and prohibits employment in the U.S. except under specific conditions.
The risk to an international visitor is that a mutually agreeable volunteer arrangement may be viewed by immigration authorities as unauthorized employment. Individuals working without proper employment authorization violate the terms of their visa status, making them possibly deportable or ineligible to visit the U.S. in the future. More details can be found here: Office of Academic Personnel, Volunteers
If the activity relates to the student’s studies or intended profession, it is likely considered training, and requires advance authorization from ISS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. More information for international students can be found here: International Student Services: Employment & Internships
To err on the safe side, we should not assign volunteer status to international students to prevent violations of the terms of their visa status.
The following expectations are required to protect the working rights of volunteers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering:
- Volunteers cannot do the same work as a paid employee.
- Graduate students cannot be volunteers.
- Do not have a volunteer start working without contacting HR.
- Volunteer appointment duration will be no longer than one quarter (three months equivalent), though volunteers can request an appointment extension. These requests will be reviewed and approved by the Department Administrator.
- Volunteers have an hour limit of 10 hours per week.
- Volunteers working in a lab must attend a lab orientation with the Lab Manager.
- Volunteers must complete all required EH&S training before starting work.
- Volunteers must be trained on all instruments and equipment they are expected to use. This training must be conducted by the Lab Manager, Lab Technician, or faculty adviser.
- Volunteers must be supervised in the lab at all times by an adviser or designated graduate student.
- Volunteers cannot be asked to work in the lab outside of regular business hours, meaning late nights or weekends.
Follow the steps below to work with the HR Manager to onboard a new volunteer:
- Email the HR Manager with the full name and email of your volunteer.
- The HR Manager will send the Volunteer Agreement Form through DocuSign to the adviser to complete appointment duration, schedule, duties, and equipment used.
- The Volunteer Agreement Form will be routed to the volunteer to provide emergency contact information, Covid-19 vaccine affidavit, and signed agreement to the appointment expectations.
- Both volunteer and adviser are required to view the Volunteer Compliance Page and acknowledge they understand and will comply with the guidelines as written.
- The HR Manager will view the volunteer’s vaccine document for confirmation. Volunteers must be vaccinated and cannot petition for an exemption.
- The volunteer with complete a Sexual Misconduct Disclosure to be cleared by UW HR.
- The adviser will ensure the volunteer has completed all required EH&S trainings.
- If the volunteer position is in a lab, then the Lab Manager will host a lab walkthrough to cover lab-specific safety compliance.
An adviser, or designated graduate student, must supervise volunteers in the lab at all times.
Liability & workers’ compensation
Authorized volunteers have both UW liability coverage and limited workers’ compensation coverage (medical payments only) for their approved duties. Volunteers are not eligible for UW health insurance benefits.
Volunteers who have catastrophic injuries are not eligible for salary replacement, disability or death benefits under Washington workers’ compensation law. For this reason, Risk Management recommends that they not work with blood borne pathogens, radiation, biological agents exceeding Risk Group 2 of the NIH Guidelines, high-risk power tools or with any other equipment, materials or in any environment that has a high risk of catastrophic injury or death.
COVID-19 vaccine requirement
On August 18, 2021, Governor Inslee issued proclamation 21-14.1, requiring all on-site volunteers of Washington higher education institutions to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021. The University is unable to accommodate requests for medical or religious exemptions for volunteers. Volunteers who are unable to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 may not engage in work (otherwise volunteer on-site at University of Washington work locations).