Do Signed Waivers Protect a Nonprofit from Being Sued for Injuries?

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Companies have to be familiar with the basics of employment law if they hope to stay in business. They need to have sophisticated procedures and insurance systems in place to provide for injured workers. These workers often receive those associated benefits. However, a nonprofit is a fundamentally different workplace. Many of its employees are volunteers who do not go through the same onboarding procedures and do not receive the same benefits as traditional employees. A legal waiver may also stand in the way of an injured worker receiving just compensation in some instances. Knowing about legal rights and the role of these waivers is essential for workers receiving the aforementioned compensation after their injuries.

Nonprofits and Dangerous Work

Nonprofits often engage in possibly injurious work. Many different jobs in the nonprofit sector involve manual labor. Nonprofits often build houses and clear out landscapes for individuals and companies. Their work involves lifting heavy objects and power tools. In many instances, the people doing work for nonprofits are not highly experienced professionals. They perform the work required at nonprofits because they believe in the missions of these organizations. These individuals know that more remunerative work could be found elsewhere.

Nonprofits thrive off of volunteer labor. While a large percentage of nonprofits have paid staff, their income is not high enough to hire everyone who works for them. This income stream may come from small-scale stores or donations that are inconsistent in their application. Professionals often will not do the work associated with these tasks without being paid for it. Nonprofits do not have the luxury to be picky and must take the work from individuals who often do not perform it on a daily basis. As a result, the chance for injury can sometimes be much greater than in the case of an individual working for a company.

Nonprofits and Legal Waivers

The conventional view of nonprofits as small and amateur affairs is incomplete. Some nonprofits are massive and have thousands of employees and workers from all over the world. Nonprofits who are in particularly dangerous fields have a significant amount of experience with labor injury related issues. As a result, they may have faced dozens or hundreds lawsuits and formulated organizational policies related to those problems.

One common form of employment lawsuit response is a legal waiver. A legal waiver is a document that stipulates that an individual knows and accepts the risks of working a nonprofit job before that job begins. It may list responsibilities and possible injuries that may arise. These agreements are written in legalese and are intended to curb the risk of a potential lawsuit from an individual hurt on the job. They provide a legal record that an individual knew the risks of working at a nonprofit and decided to work for it anyway. These legal waivers in some instances are able to crush any attempts at legal action from individuals. They have become almost standard in larger nonprofit organizations.

Possible Legal Waiver Loopholes

Legal waivers are not completely airtight and they do not make future lawsuits impossible. In fact, a legal waiver can be made null and void by minor textual errors. A legal waiver also does not absolve a nonprofit of irresponsible behavior or give a nonprofit free reign to have unhealthy conditions. Legal waivers often show obligations for both sides of a nonprofit work relationship. If the nonprofit does not meet their end of the contract, the victim of the accident can render the contract null and void and sue for damages.

There are a number of other situations where legal waivers can fall apart. Some legal waivers are much too expansive. They may contain text which points to possible discriminatory intent. Legal waivers may preclude other rights granted to individuals by law. If those textual points lead to a waiver being tossed aside or incomplete, the result would be a potential lawsuit. Lawyers would meet and decide whether or not a settlement would be warranted. Cases that were not settled would eventually go to trial in a process that may result in significant monetary compensation for the injured party.

What to Do

If an individual who works for a nonprofit is the victim of a workplace accident, the first step is for them to make sure they are healthy and well. They must receive medical treatment and undergo any emergency procedures. Once those are completed, the individual should review their options and look at any legal documents that they signed. An attorney can help an individual meticulously pick apart the documents that an individual signed. The attorney would look for any loopholes that may lead to a legal waiver being thrown out.

Then, the attorney would visit the individuals involved and the site. They would go over the incident in question and scrutinize the behavior of those in charge of the nonprofit. Witnesses would be procured and analyzed for the smallest breaches of protocol. After this initial investigation, the attorney would most likely file a lawsuit. He or she would attempt to bring in the nonprofit managers for a settlement. Settlements would most likely be advantageous for the individual involved.

The nonprofit does not want to have to worry about a considerable amount of time and legal effort. Many nonprofits are not large enough to adequately go through the process of discovery. They do not want to hand over all of the necessary documentation involved in such a process. If the two sides cannot reach a settlement, the case will go to trial and the attorney will attempt to argue that the nonprofit was liable for an individual’s injuries. A successful lawsuit could result in millions of dollars in damages.


Nonprofits should not live in constant fear of a lawsuit. They need to focus on the mission of their organization and their utilization of labor to help achieve that mission. At the same time, individuals who work for these companies must be aware of their rights. Knowing the limitations of legal waivers may result in a person gaining thousands of dollars that they would not have otherwise been entitled to.

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