The workers’ compensation law of Iowa is located in Chapter 85 of the Code (the book of permanent statutes passed by Iowa’s legislature).  The Iowa Code is posted on the website of the Iowa legislature and it has a search engine.  Citizens should never shy away from looking things up in the Code—it is not rocket science to read the law for oneself.   

The first section of that Chapter, Section 85.1, lists a number of relationships that, though they look like employment, are held out as exempt from the duty to compensate work injury.  There are a number of agriculture-related exemptions to be discussed in a future post.  Police and firefighters are also discussed in a future post.  Certain officers of a corporation that employs people may be exempt from compensation, depending on how they arrange their insurance, and that will also be discussed in a future post. 

The other exemptions beside these more detailed exemptions concern casual employment, and employment in a private home. 

Casual employees 

This category does not concern your work attire, or your attitude regarding your work duties. If you employ someone on a casual basis, that means you hire them for a purpose other than your normal trade or business.  If you own a roofing company, and you have an extra person who is “on-call” if you need an extra hand, that person will not be considered a casual employee exempt from compensation for work injury, no matter how infrequently they are called, because they are helping you with what is the main purpose of your business—roofing.  On the other hand, if your roofing company hires a man to work 8 to noon on Saturdays painting the company office, and it takes weeks, then such a person could be exempt from compensation for work injury, even if he is on your payroll and sent a W-2 at the end of the year.  The reason is because he is not engaging in the trade your business is involved in, and his employment thus appears to be casual in nature. 

If an employee makes more than a modest sum, however, they are not subject to this exemption.  The current line chosen by our legislature for this separation is $1500 over the rolling year leading up to the time of any injury.  If you make more than that, you are not a casual employee. 

Private home employment 

An employee hired to perform services in or around a private dwelling is exempt from compensation for work injury.  This exception to Iowa’s workers’ compensation law itself has an exception, and then there is an exception to the exception to know about— 

If you make too much money, then you are not subject to this exemption, and you are owed compensation for work injury.  That threshold, as in casual employment, is $1500 over the year leading up to the injury.  If you make more than that, you are supposed to be compensated for work injury, even if your job is a service provided in or around a private home. 

What that means is that if you hire a nanny for your kids over the summer, and that nanny makes more than $1500 over the course of the summer, then if they get in a wreck while taking your kids to the park, they might be able to claim a right to workers’ compensation for that injury.  The Ellis Law Office can assist either party in dealing with, or avoiding such a problem.  The office is equipped to manage a claim of injury by a private home employee, or assist a parent in drafting a contract to make clear that the arrangement will not be considered employment of any kind, but an independent contractor relationship. 

The exception to the exception concerns members of the household.  Even if you make more than $1500 working at a private home, you cannot make a claim of work injury against your employer if you are a member of the household.  This exception can lead to interesting situations when an apartment complex has a “maintenance” person living in one of the apartments.  Is that person “residing on the premises” if injured in another tenant’s apartment? 

Once again, the Ellis Law Offices is available to guide you through any complex situation concerning exemptions from the workers’ compensation law, and get you the compensation you deserve, or avoid liability for compensation that should rightfully rest elsewhere. 

Click here for more information regarding agriculture and workers’ compensation.

This information does not develop an attorney-client relationship and is not legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice on any estate planning.   

Author: Peter M. Sand

Ashley Allen