The question of what and how much training a county should provide a volunteer is answered looking at the volunteer from two perspectives, 1) as a volunteer, the county is liable for the actions of the volunteer to the same extent as if they were an employee, and 2) the county owes a volunteer certain protections that they owe their employees and others. For our purposes here, let’s focus on training related to discrimination/harassment.
- Under the Utah Volunteer Governmental Worker Act (UCA 67-20-1) the county is liable for the actions of volunteers, and must defend volunteers as if they were an employee. If a charge of discrimination or harassment was made against a volunteer, the county would be obligated to defend the claim and pay any damages the same as if the volunteer was an employee.
- Under the Civil Rights Act and case law regarding discrimination and harassment, the county owes a duty to volunteers to protect them from discrimination and harassment when performing their volunteer duties.
Based on these two perspectives, a county should consider they are responsible to keep volunteers from discriminating against or harassing others, while at the same time protecting volunteers from being discriminated against or harassed.
The best practice in this regard is to provide discrimination/harassment training to each volunteer before they begin their volunteer duties, and have them document that they have received the training and agree with the county discrimination/harassment policy. If the county feels training each and every volunteer to the same extent as employees is not plausible, consider those volunteers that present the greatest risk, namely those that would be in regular contact with other volunteers, employees or the public. Also, if you have volunteers in a department that has concerns with discrimination/harassment, it is suggested you provide training to those volunteers as well. Certainly if there are reports or concerns regarding harassment among volunteers, you would want to conduct training as soon as possible.
UCIP provides multiple training options in order to provide essential training to member organizations. With the various on-line and other training options UCIP provides, the county can easily and effectively provide training to most, if not all, volunteers through any internet-connected device.