Standard 8

Standard 8. WBL activities are compliant with legal, health, and safety regulations.
  • School districts are responsible for providing adequate insurance and other risk management policies related to WBL activities.
  • Employers are responsible for providing safe, closely supervised work site learning environments.
  • When long-term WBL activities meet the Department of Labor's criteria for employment, students will be paid.
INDICATOR: WBL Coordinators assure that WBL activities meet all relevant legal, health, and safety standards.

Introduction to Legal Issues
Work-based learning experiences are broadly defined as activities that involve actual work experience, or that connect classroom learning to employment and careers. Through these experiences, educational programs become more relevant, rigorous, challenging, and rewarding for students, parents, educators, and businesses. Work-based Learning opportunities particularly help students make connections between academic principles and real world applications, but also move students outside the confines and safety net of the school building and grounds. 

As "real life" career explorations are becoming a larger piece of the core academic requirements for graduation in schools throughout Vermont, students are taking part in work-based learning experiences in greater numbers. While these experiences provide a rich source of instruction and are a valuable resource to educators, employers, and students alike, they also add additional legal concerns and responsibilities which those offering the programs need to be aware of. 

Many parents, employers, and schools are confused or uninformed regarding the mix of federal and state laws that apply to young people in the workplace. It is essential that educators and employers become knowledgeable about liability issues and laws governing students in the workplace. Employers must comply with federal and state child labor laws and regulations that detail age, hour, and working environment requirements for minors. Those who place students in the workplace need to understand the laws as well and also provide to all those involved in a placement, comprehensive information, recommendations and options concerning risks associated with work-based learning.

This section of the manual is intended to highlight some of the basic legal issues pertaining to work-based learning including wage and hour laws, risk management issues, nondiscrimination laws, safety at the work site issues, and confidentiality concerns. Unfortunately, this section will not provide all the answers. In some cases it will evoke more questions. It will help work-based learning practitioners to identify potential problems and create the steps toward solutions. 

Please note, that the information in this guide is general information on legal considerations related to work-based learning and does not carry the force of legal opinion. This section should not be a substitute for the advice of an attorney or of the government agencies charged with administering and enforcing the laws. In addition, any risk management plan developed for work-based learning opportunities should always be reviewed by legal and risk management experts before implementation.

If you are not an administrator, work with your school's administration to address the following issues. You will need their support and approval. Administration may choose to address the situation themselves. With a little research, you will be able to determine the insurance coverages your school already has or needs to have in place. 

In order to minimize the risks in participating in work-based learning activities, you will need to implement appropriate insurance coverage. This section of the manual cannot guarantee perfect coverage, or that no misfortunes will happen, but hopefully it will help you and your school to attain fairly comprehensive coverage for work-based learning activities.

Liability is not accident or medical insurance. Its purpose is to protect the insured against claims of negligence. Negligence exists when a duty is owed to another and a non-intentional breach of that duty occurs, resulting in some form of physical injury and/or property damage.

School liability policies typically only cover the liability exposure of the school and teachers. It is recommended that you get written verification from your school's insurance carrier or underwriter stating that the policy will cover work-based learning activities. In order to make sure the carrier knows what coverage you need, provide them with a list of work-based learning activities. If the carrier does not understand the issues well, and you can get permission to work with the underwriter, the underwriter can be the best source of information about the bottom line of your school's policy. Make sure the coverage will be active when students are engaged in any and all work-based learning activities, including those that are not during traditional school hours, not on school grounds, and not directly supervised by a school employee. If your policy does not provide coverage that encompasses these three requirements, the school and the individual arranging workbased learning activities may not be protected by insurance coverage when students are involved in situations as simple as job shadows.

Ask your carrier about riders and endorsements. Some general liability policies will allow you to add a work-based learning rider to the existing policy so that it will cover work-based learning activities. Some companies also offer various workbased learning endorsements which can make your policy more comprehensive.

Another question to ask is whether your school's liability policy has any exclusions, such as malpractice (health services) or a garage exclusion. Policies often have exclusions for situations such as these that are considered high risk. If such an exclusion exists you should not place students at those types of work sites, or you may be able to negotiate a rider to the policy allowing such placements. That would require administrative support and funding.

Another issue to address is whether the policy covers students. If a student causes damage at a work-based learning site (for example, they mistakenly delete precious files from a computer), would the student be covered by the liability policy?

If the answer is no, negotiate a rider to the policy. Verify that the school's liability policy protects the school against third party suits for paid and non-paid placements. If an accident occurs in a paid placement, the student is covered by workers' compensation. The student-employee can't sue the employer but the parents, as a third party, can sue the school.

The last question to ask is whether the policy provides medical coverage for accidents if a student is hurt. Typically the answer will be no, which brings us to the next type of insurance.

• Does it cover work-based learning activities including traditional school activities like field trips? (typically yes)
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that take place during or after school hours?
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that are on, or off school grounds?
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that are, or are not supervised by a school employee?
• Are there any exclusions?
• Does it cover students?
• Does it provide medical payment coverage? (typically no)
• What is the coverage provided?

Basic accident insurance is offered to students through the school but generally is not required. Most basic voluntary student accident insurance programs provide maximum benefits up to $25,000; some programs include $50,000 and $100,000 benefit maximums. For certain activities such as school sports, student accident insurance may be encouraged. Most traditional accident insurance policies require the student to be on the school site and/or under the direct supervision of a school employee for the student to be covered, unless other provisions are made within 
the actual policy. With the exception of school sponsored and supervised field trips, work-based learning activities frequently are not covered by such policies.

If this type of insurance is offered through your school, verify with the carrier that the policy will cover work-based learning activities. Sending the carrier an outline of work-based learning activities is helpful. Again, it is important to make sure that coverage will be active when students are engaged in any and all activities, including those that are not during traditional school hours, not on school grounds and are not directly supervised by a school employee. If the policy meets these requirements, and you are sending students out on work-based learning activities, document whether or not the student's family has purchased the accident policy. Some of these policies offer "school time only" and 24-hour coverage options, so also document which policy the student has. Most "school time only" options provide coverage only for work-based learning activities that take place during school hours. Define what "school hours" are and verify with the carrier whether or not the policy has any time exclusions before assuming students are covered for activities that take place outside of school hours.

• Does it cover work-based learning activities including traditional school activities like field trips? (typically yes)
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that take place during or after school hours?
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that are on or off school grounds?
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that are or are not supervised by a school employee?
• Are there any exclusions?
• What is the coverage provided?
• Does "school time only coverage" cover work-based learning activities with no time exclusion?

Student accident catastrophic insurance serves as a potential stop-loss for a school in case of a major injury. Most basic voluntary student accident insurance programs provide maximum benefits up to $25,000; some programs include $50,000 and $100,000 benefit maximums. Catastrophic insurance has much higher maximum benefits such as one to five million, along with a substantial deductible amount that assumes the existence of a basic accident insurance policy or a process for self insurance.

Should an accident occur, a student's family medical and/or voluntary accident insurance policy, if they have such coverage, may cover medical expenses. If so, such policies often provide coverage only up to a point. Beyond that, catastrophic insurance acts as a stop-loss for the school. Whether or not your school's liability policy has a medical payment exclusion, the school may want to purchase catastrophic insurance. This type of coverage is typically inexpensive, with different rates for athletics, work-based learning and regular students. Schools and school districts can pool together to purchase policies, making it even more affordable. The value of obtaining this type of coverage can be well illustrated by the settlement of a case at a school in northern Vermont which did not have catastrophic insurance and where a student was seriously injured. In most cases parents would not sue a school system because their child was injured if all of their medical costs were covered. In the case of this Vermont school the final settlement, which was for medical costs alone, would have paid their catastrophic insurance policy premiums for 156 years.

As with liability insurance, verify with the carrier that your school's catastrophic insurance policy will cover work-based learning activities. Sending the carrier an outline of work-based learning activities is helpful. Again, it is important to make sure that coverage will be active when students are engaged in any and all activities, including those that are not during traditional school hours, not on school grounds, and are not directly supervised by a school employee.

• Does it cover work-based learning activities including traditional school activities like field trips? (typically yes)
• Does it cover work-based learning activities that take place during or after school hours?

If a student is covered by a family medical insurance policy, it may or may not cover the student while he/she is engaged in school activities and it may or may not cover accidents. As with the voluntary accident insurance, verify whether or not a student is covered by medical insurance and if the policy covers accidents. Consider sending home a form requesting the name of the policy, policy number, effective dates, and parent(s) signature. Keep in mind that some families will be sensitive to the request of such information. Suggest to the parents that they verify with their carrier that the policy will cover the student while at school or engaged in school work-based learning activities. Even if the parents verify that the student is covered, this type of insurance is not as reliable as the others. For example, while a family may have coverage when the student enrolls in a work-based learning program, a month later the family may cancel the policy or miss a payment losing the coverage. If the policy has a high deductible, it might benefit the family to purchase a voluntary accident insurance policy for their child.

• Does the policy cover the student during or after school hours, and while they are engaged in any type of school activity, including workbased learning?
• Are there any exclusions?

Another insurance product that is available in some places is called "slots". This type of insurance provides basic accident coverage for students while engaged in work-based learning activities that are non-paid. Many students can be rotated through each slot given that only one student is using it at a time. You need only to purchase enough slots to cover the maximum number of students that would be out on an unpaid work-based learning activity at a time. With this insurance in place, the existence of a family medical or voluntary accident policy for the student is not as crucial.

Workers' compensation is insurance that compensates an individual's lost wages (a percentage) due to injury suffered while on the job and covers medical costs, disability rehabilitation, the loss of functional capacity and survivor benefits, as well as providing liability protection for the employer. Individuals who are engaged in a paid employee-employer  relationship must be covered by the employer.

Any student involved in a paid work-based learning position must be covered by workers' compensation insurance. Currently in Vermont, workers' compensation coverage for the student is the responsibility of the employer. Do not place any students into a paid work position if the employer does not or will not cover the student with workers' compensation insurance. It is illegal according to both state and federal law to have a paid employee who is not covered by workers' compensation insurance. Before placing a student in a paid employment position verify that the employer has workers' compensation insurance, or that the student has such coverage through the school or other party specifically for that position.

• Is the student covered by workers' compensation insurance for his/her specific paid work-based learning position?

Transportation of work-based learning students is a complex insurance issue. Transporting students in a school bus is probably the safest situation, assuming the school has all the proper insurances in place. However, a school bus is not always practical when working with one or just a few students. When using a bus, make sure you follow all school procedures and protocols, such as permission slips.

Most schools have general liability policies that provide secondary liability insurance for employees who transport students, as required by Vermont statute (Source: VSA 16 §1756 (b)). This means that the adult's personal auto insurance will pay first and the school policy will pay second. If the adult's policy will not cover the situation,
the school's policy generally then becomes the primary policy. It is very important to check with your school on their protocol for driving students. Some schools will not allow people to drive students unless their personal policy will cover them to drive students and unless their policy covers them up to a specific amount. Some policies also provide secondary coverage for volunteers, such as parents, to drive students. Insurance companies often require that the school have copies on file of the volunteers' driver's licenses and insurance cards.

1. Student driving himself/herself: Check school policies and protocols around students transporting themselves and others. If a student drives him/herself to a work-based learning site, prepare a transportation agreement including the following:
A. Parental permission to drive, including:
a1. Verification that student and car are covered by insurance;
a2. Statement that the car to be used is safe and inspected;
a3. Other agreements as needed (see sample form); and
a4. Parent and student signatures.
B. Copy of student's driver's license and insurance card on file.

2. Students driving other students: Generally the practice of students driving other students is discouraged as being a very risky situation. However, if you choose to let students drive one another to a work-based learning site, prepare a transportation agreement to include the following:
A. Parental permission to drive, including:
a1.  Verification that student and car are covered by insurance;
a2.  Statement that the car to be used is safe and inspected;
a3. Parental permission for their child to drive the other student(s);
a4. Parental permission for their child to be driven by the other student;
a5. Other agreements as needed (see sample form);
a6. Parent and student signatures; and
a7. Copy of student's driver's license and insurance card on file.

3. Teacher/other person driving a student: If a teacher or other person is to drive a student, at least:
A. Get written parental permission for the student to be driven by the given person.
B. Have the adult verify with his/her insurance carrier that he/she is covered to transport students.
C. Follow school policy and protocols on transporting students in private vehicles.
D. Verify with the school's general liability insurance carrier that adults will receive at least secondary coverage through the policy when transporting students. Find out what protocols need to be followed to ensure the driver will receive secondary coverage. Verify which adults are authorized under this coverage; does it apply to school
personnel, parents who volunteer, community members, others?
E. Make the adult aware of whether or not the school's general liability policy provides secondary coverage for them to transport students.

1. When a work-based learning activity involves a business or a site off school grounds, verify that the site has commercial general liability insurance. The employer should verify that its policy will cover them when hosting students.
A. Always verify with the school administration, what policies and protocols and checklists you need to follow for the activities you are implementing. If these strategies are not in place make sure they are established. A few of the issues to be addressed include:
a1. How one goes about placing a student.
a2. What the educator is expected to do to ensure the safety of the student.
a3. What the student is expected to know or do when placed off campus.
B. Insurance policies that cover work-based learning activities sometimes have a definition of "to monitor" which outlines what is expected of the person coordinating the work-based learning activity including supervision requirements, pre-placement activities, and site review requirements.
C. Work-based learning activities usually assume or require a connection between the activity and the student's academic program, either for credit or not for credit.
D. Always make sure forms are returned signed.
E. Another issue to address is that of doing background checks on business and community people who will be working with your students. Check with your school administration on the school's policies and protocols around doing background checks on people who are not employees of the school but who will work with students directly in a work-based learning activity.

Federal and state laws ban sexual harassment, in both public educational programs and in employment situations. In employment situations, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Vermont's Fair Employment Practices Act ban discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, handicapping condition and/or disability, or sexual orientation. In educational programs, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Educational Amendment prohibit discrimination.

Practitioners who place students in a work-based learning site are required to assure that the work site does not practice discrimination. Include a section on your work site checklist noting that you have verified/checked out this area. In addition, to comply with the ADA, make sure that the work site is accessible and that students with disabilities have the accommodations they need to participate in the work-based learning experience.

Sexual harassment can be a very troubling issue in a work-based learning situation. By taking a series of precautions you can alleviate the chances of having a serious problem arise. Every agreement used for work-based learning student participation needs a section that indicates that an employer is expected to maintain a safe working environment. A safe working environment includes protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, and the school has a right to terminate the agreement at any time if there is a breach in the above stipulated items.

Thus, any brochure, pamphlet, fact sheet, etc. describing or recruiting students to participate in work-based learning experiences must contain a statement of nondiscrimination such as: (Name of school) does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, handicapping condition and/or disability, or sexual orientation. (source

Even though labor laws may not always apply in a work-based learning situation, you are encouraged to adhere to child labor laws with regard to hours and hazardous working conditions. Child labor laws provide valuable guidance that can assist a schoolbased coordinator in determining hazardous jobs or working conditions for children.

What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?  Vermont's labor laws (child labor VSA 21 §431) closely adhere to the federal law (FLSA) in an effort to align the laws of the two jurisdictions and thus make the laws more clear and comprehensive for employers. Vermont's law has time and hour restrictions for children under the age of 16, and occupational restrictions for children under the age of 18, similar to those in the federal law. Note that in VT there are exemptions for children employed as a performer/actor, agricultural worker, or employed in domestic service.  Vermont allows children to work in some professions at age 14.  See, "Important Information for Employers of Minors in the State of Vermont on Federal and State Child Labor Laws."
Source (

Might a certificate of eligibility be required? Vermont only requires employment certificates issued by the Department of Labor for minors if (a) the child is under 16 years of age and (b) employed during school hours in other than a duly approved educational or technical course of study. Also under Vermont law, employers are strongly encouraged, for their own protection, to maintain a certified copy of a birth certificate for all minors they employ.(Source: 21 VSA §431,

When do young workers have to be paid? It is clear in the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 that federal and state child labor laws will apply to its employment and employment-related programs, and that compliance with these restrictions is mandatory. The applicability of the labor laws depends on whether a student involved in work-based learning has the role of student, voluntary trainee, or employee. The student's status is critical in the design, implementation, and monitoring of all work-based learning experiences. Work performed by students in work-based learning may constitute employment subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or training that is not subject to FLSA. The U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division established criteria based on U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of the FLSA for determining whether work is employment or training. In general, a student is considered a trainee not covered by FLSA if all of the following criteria are continuously met:

• The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer,
is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
• The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students;
• The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close
• The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage for the 
activities of the trainees or students; and on occasion the employer's operations may   
actually be impeded;
• The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the 
learning experience (although employers may offer jobs to students who complete 
• The employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are
not entitled to wages or other compensation for the time spent in training (although a
stipend may be paid for expenses). 

In the event that any one of these criteria is absent, the work performed by the student will likely constitute employment subject to the provisions of the FLSA. If a student meets all the criteria and is determined to be a trainee, wages are not paid and labor laws do not apply. A stipend may be paid to reimburse expenses such as books or tools, but not as a substitute for wages.

If a student is determined to be an employee, then both state and federal child labor laws cover the work-based learning placement. Both jurisdictions regulate only those workers under 18 years of age, after which they are considered to be adult workers protected by state and federal general labor laws.

Should Be The Goal of Everyone Involved in WBL Activities, the importance of ensuring the safety of each student during a work-based learning (WBL) activity is crucial to the success of the program. All activities from worksite field trips to service learning to paid work-experience must be monitored and students must be protected at all times.

There are several types of work that are potentially hazardous to young people. These include: working in or around motor vehicles; working near electrical hazards; working in retail and service businesses where there is a risk of robbery- related hazards; working on ladders, scaffolds, roofs or construction sites; working around cooking appliances;
continuous manual lifting and lifting of heavy objects; and operating tractors and other heavy equipment.  The WBL coordinator must be familiar with laws pertaining to hazardous occupations.

Preventing hazards and accidents is the joint responsibility of the WBL coordinator, the employer, the supervisor, and the student. Prior to students‟ engaging in an activity at the site, the WBL coordinator surveys the potential risks for students. The WBL coordinator monitors the site throughout the experience and addresses basic safety rules in the school-based curriculum.

The employer is responsible for maintaining a safe work environment, eliminating hazards, training students to recognize hazards and use safe work practices, complying with child labor laws, evaluating equipment, and providing appropriate supervision. The student‟s immediate supervisor is responsible for monitoring the safety of the student and instructing her or him when the need arises.

Each student is also responsible for taking steps to protect him or herself. They should know their rights, participate in training programs, recognize the potential for injury at work, ask questions, and follow safe work practices.

Sadly, every year about 70 teens die from work injuries in the United States. Another 70,000 get hurt badly enough that they go to a hospital emergency room.

In order to ensure student safety, it is recommended that you:
• Contact the Vermont Department of Labor to check on workplace safety requirements.
• Include safety items in your work site evaluation forms.
• Visit work sites before placing students. Look at the work areas students
will be in. Are there any apparent concerns with safety? If so, ask how students will be protected?
• Identify needed safety equipment (e.g., safety glasses, steel-toed boots, etc.).
If needed, who will provide the equipment for the student—the employer,
the school, or the student?
• Talk with the employer and the student's work site supervisor about safety
issues. You may want to give them a copy of the information contained in
the Work Safe This Summer: Employer's Guide to Teen Worker Safety or other
safety publications.
• Train students on safety issues before they go into the workplace.
• Ensure that students placed in child care facilities, medical facilities, and
other sites where they may be in potential contact with body fluids or wastes
are inoculated with the Hepatitis B vaccine. It is also appropriate to train
students in using applicable safety precautions.

To ensure the safety of the students, safety training at the school and worksite should include:
A. Basic first aid
B. Basic safety rules
C. Health and safety hazards
D. Proper use of safety equipment and protective clothing
E. Ergonomics
F. Proper handling of materials
G. Maintaining safe and clean work areas
H. Safe practices with machines and tools
I. VT Employee Rights 
J. Reporting of illnesses, injuries or unsafe conditions

Sources VT Employee Rights, MN DCFL, VOSHA

Confidentiality in a work-based learning experience is a two-way street. An employer or potential employer may ask questions regarding a student. Students in a work site may also be privy to confidential information regarding the employer or the business' customers.

When working with students in work-based learning sites, it is important to release student information such as classes taken, skills, grades, etc. to employers. You may provide directory-type information which includes:
• Student's name;
• Student's address;
• Student's date and place of birth;
• Student's major field of study;
• Student's participation in officially recognized sports or activities;
• Weight and height of members of athletic teams;
• Dates of attendance;
• Degrees and awards received; and
• Most recent previous educational institution attended.
Information which does not fall under the directory-type of information is considered
to be confidential information (Source: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations (FERPA) 34CFR§99.1).

All confidential information, including a student's social security number, can be shared only with the signed permission of the student (age 18 and over) or the student's parent/guardian (under age 18). It is a good idea to have a student and/or their parent/guardian sign an information release form before making a work-based learning placement. The information release statement may also be contained in the training contract.

Employers may also be concerned that a student in a work-based learning experience will share confidential information regarding the employer's business or it's customers with those outside of the work site. Explain to the student the importance of confidential information and what the work site's rules are regarding information. A student may be asked by the employer to sign a form stating that they understand the rules, and that they will keep such information confidential.

Sources (
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)'s Request for Assistance in Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers ( (

US Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act Adviser

YouthRules, launched by the U.S. Department of Labor in May 2002 to increase public awareness of Federal and State rules concerning young workers. Through the YouthRules! initiative, the U.S. Department of Labor and its partners seek to promote positive and safe work experiences that help prepare young workers to enter the 21st Century workforce. 


Jay Ramsey at or (802) 479-1343

Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014